Psychopaths and the rules: to comply or not to comply, how do they decide?

By:  Linda Hartoonian Almas, M.S. Ed

When dealing with psychopaths, or individuals with psychopathic features, nothing is as it seems to the naked eye.  When in relationships with psychopathic individuals, the non-psychopaths bear the brunt of great responsibility, both real and perceived. After all, the “normals” really are left carrying the loads and picking up the pieces when the psychopaths are tired of playing the games that they initiated.  However, the blame or burden they attempt to place on us, while accepting none for themselves, is not legitimate and we should not internalize it. Our actions and behaviors have little or nothing to do with the outcomes of their choices, even if they, for a time, have us believing otherwise.

While I generally feel that we are largely responsible for our own lives and have a fair amount of control over our own destinies, there is no question that when we interact closely with psychopaths, these notions may change. Our playing fields are far from level, altering everything we thought we knew about interpersonal communication and human behavior. In short, we are left reeling because we tend to assume that everyone is normal, or at least not psychopathic, and we act accordingly. We continue on this path until we gain an accurate understanding of how psychopaths function. Once we process and accept what we know, we give ourselves a tremendous gift; understanding.  While we cannot change them and we come to know that, this understanding allows us to alter our behaviors, thus eliminating their power and control.

Pick and choose

For me, few questions remain about their behaviors or how to react to them.  Almost twenty years’ experience—a combination of personal, professional, and academic—have brought me to this place.  However, from time to time, I occasionally find myself pondering how they pick and choose which rules to follow.

At first, I felt the answer was obvious.  It would seem that, like anything else they do, the answer would lie in the payoff. Perhaps it does. Given their lack of insight and inability to engage in any actual long term planning, it may be that simple. Nonetheless, the topic has caused me to give pause.

I am able to comprehend that they feel that the rules governing the rest of society simply do not apply to them.  I am also able to understand that they have only limited regard for consequences.  Furthermore, I realize that they tend to think mainly in the short term, and acknowledge that their desire for immediate gratification may override all else. But is there more; is there some form of rhyme or reason to their compliance or lack thereof?

For example, let’s examine financial obligations, since this tends to be a common area of non-compliance and general mismanagement. Let’s take this scenario one step further, and discuss court ordered financial obligations.  In spite of the court system attaching a certain level of importance to these obligations, it is not uncommon for psychopathic individuals, or those with such features, to treat these orders as SUGGESTIONS. Why?

As with anything anyone does, there could be a multitude of reasons. However, psychopaths’ motivations may be more sinister than ours. It is clear that they have no problem insulting the integrity of the courts, but it is likely that this goes much further. Below, are some possible reasons.

Possible Reasons for Non-Compliance: 

1.  They may want those they owe to “suffer.”

2.  They may be engaging in “payback” for something they perceive was done to them. Remember, they see themselves as the actual victims much of the time.

3.  They may be attempting to stir the drama pot and elicit reactions or engagements, instigate arguments, or create circular, dead-end  “back and forths” over their wrongdoing.

4.  They may be attempting to bring out “bad behaviors” so that they look “right” or “justified” in their actions.

5.  They may be attempting to frustrate, wear down, or harm financially, emotionally, or otherwise.

6.  They may be attempting to exercise power and control over the situation.

7.  They may be looking for pity, especially if they have a “good” reason (but you know better) as to why they are unable to pay.

8.  They may want those they owe to internalize their wrongdoings, and accept blame.  For example, “Had I not (fill in the blank,) I would be getting paid.”

9.  They may simply be taking risks, with or without regard for any potential consequences. These risks may be calculated, planned, and enjoyable to them, or they may not give them a second thought.

10.  They may simply feel that they have better things to spend “their” money on.

This list is, by no means, exhaustive.  As I write, I can think of several more possibilities.  Additionally, much of this list is not exclusive to financial choices.  It could apply to many different sets of rules or norms.  The important thing to remember, regardless of their motivations, is this; these choices are theirs, not ours.  The rules and structure that govern society have spoken and in spite of what they decide, very real consequences could come their way in situations regarding such non-compliance or compliance on their terms.

So, how or why do they choose to follow some rules and not others? That is not something for which I can offer an absolute answer. This topic comes with many variables. We each probably hold some very solid theories, in addition to the ones I provided.

What I can offer is that I know it is our responsibility to utilize the gifts we gave (or are in the process of giving) ourselves and employ our knowledge. We must pull strength from our understanding and control ourselves, because reasoning with the unreasonable or attempting to work with those who wish to harm us is fruitless. It is a process that takes practice and persistence, but when we do this, we render them powerless regardless of their actions and choices.

Linda Hartoonian Almas has a Master’s Degree in Learning and Behavior.  She is former a police officer who had her own run-in with a psychopath. She lectures on domestic violence and is a contributing author of a presentation on psychopathy in the family court system.

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I’ve read many articles and books on Narcissistic Psychopaths and I believe this one just expressed even more so the person I was involved with for 3 – 1/2 years…although everything applies to the overall traits but this article was accurate to the financial con I had endured with him. I was in that black-hole and suicidal and using “borrowed hope” to survive along with “understanding” of the disease to save myself..However, the word in this article that caught my eye, was “wear down”…By the perfect seduction, i was drawn in and appeared to be addicted to him. Over the first year and half, he wore me down to harping on how I was wanting material things etc when I could not recall ever asking…he twisted it to say, why didn’t anyone ever think of trusting him with “whatever” aka “money” and to prove that somebody really loved him.(stating frequently, nobody really loved him and that is ok, he is use to it)..i was so worn down and so addicted to an illusion of love and attempting to save him and reclaim that initial euphoria he charmed me in to that I went and withdrew over $30,000 in cash (as he wanted it) and met him in another state where i willingly handed it over for him to invest as he told me he was a “successful day trader” Every day for a year and a half he would talk about the stock market and gains and losses, more gains than losses and in a recession!!…after that day, i never heard about the stock market again and if i mentioned the money or the market he would say he didn’t know what i was talking about and for me not to mention it because we could be tapped and he didn’t have his securities license to invest others money…he also said he was going to make this money for me so that i could get my divorce and be ok…he was younger than me, which was flattering also, extremely attractive, had the gift of gab and made storybook dreams and promises,he made me think i was the special one he finally found and i was oh so vulnerable… he was so relentless, i didn’t have a chance to think let alone think straight and if i ever questioned the confusion, he would twist and confuse me further and i would walk away taking and feeling the blame and the wrong..and how could i have even thought differently or questioned him…After another year and half of hanging on hoping i was wrong and was going to get my money back, he abusively said he was “done” with me in the blink of eye (although, i knew this day was coming as he always threatened it)…he did however, show up 5 mths later and I was just getting back to breathe the air after dealing with Post Traumatic Stress ..i agreed to see him because i wanted some type of closure.(wrong thing to do!! and i knew it but thought i was strong enough to keep a solid boundary).i was going down in a matter of hours…i removed my research from Narcissist to psychopath (as my therapist indicated he was a combination of Narcissist, psychopath and borderline, ..) and all of the emotions i carried , have been severed..I was in danger and I was in denial…If he crosses my mind, I think of Silence of the Lambs…He is a master of evil..he has women all over the world via internet of all ages, shapes and sizes as well as a young beautiful clueless woman he married…she is a robotic slave. he has hidden under her name…i have reported all my information to the FBI.I am so grateful that I am alive today…your articles are so validating..thank you..p.s., he has a victim now in Europe, who was suicidal and he reconnected with her at the same time he did with me..she is in his web and when the cycle repeats, I fear for her taking her own life even if he ochestrates it…there is nothing that I can do. If any guidance came from me, her loyalty would be to him and if she educated herself, she would use it (as I did) to try to “fix” him and for me to hang in there, thinking I knew what was really happening..when i had NO authority over this monster…


I would like to see the possible reasons for compliance.

Ox Drover

Welcome, Linda, I enjoyed your article VERY much, but have one small “bone to pick.”

Your statement that “Given their lack of insight and inability to engage in any actual long term planning, it may be that simple.”

I beg to differ on this….SOME of them do have the ability and insight to engage in long term plans, Bernie Madoff is one example, and various political psychopaths (several governors like Bloggo and others who were convicted of illegal activities.) many of these men/women manage to become judges, lawyers, governors etc. and I think that requires long term planning.

Of course some psychopaths are very impulsive and do things on the spur of the moment with little concern for consequences, immediate or long term, but others are able to keep a “long con” going for decades.

Your concluding paragraph is absolutely RIGHT ON: “What I can offer is that I know it is our responsibility to utilize the gifts we gave (or are in the process of giving) ourselves and employ our knowledge. We must pull strength from our understanding and control ourselves, because reasoning with the unreasonable or attempting to work with those who wish to harm us is fruitless. It is a process that takes practice and persistence, but when we do this, we render them powerless regardless of their actions and choices.”

Looking forward to more articles! Again Welcome!


AliveToday, I am so sorry to read about all you went through. A horrible story, but the upside is that he is now out of your life, and you are now living your own life on your own terms.

Louise, I think that they only “appear” to be complying on the surface, and any compliance is only short-term, at best. For my spath H, compliance happens when he has an immediate fear of the consequences for non-compliance, or after he’s been caught by me and I’ve subsequently confronted him. I will then see compliance for a few weeks, or even a few months, but it is inevitable that non-compliance will happen soon enough again. But when he thinks he’s getting away with something, and therefore, evading any consequences, non-compliance is what he does.

OxDrover, IMO, my spath H hasn’t planned long-term and gives in to the immediate gratification when he does certain things, such as shoplifting and flirting. He does plan long-term when he steals and cheats on me, b/c the way he does it requires advance planning, so that he is less likely to get caught. But I still feel he doesn’t fear most consequences, b/c any he’s faced so far haven’t been harsh enough to cause him to hit rock bottom. I asked him last night, “What would it take for you to stop stealing? Losing me? Losing your job? Facing legal consequences? Jail time? I know you think they won’t ever catch up to you, but I feel that eventually they will. Is that what it will take for you to stop? Is that what would cause you to hit rock bottom?”

Linda, thank you for this list. Much of it applies to my spath H. There isn’t any one reason behind his non-compliance. There are many. The psychology is complex. This can also change, depending on what he is being non-compliant with, and who he is hurting in the process.

For him, add to this, in his own words as to why he steals, that he feels “entitled”. Non-compliance through stealing is but one of many ways he gets his “fix”. His fix places a “barrier” between him and his emotions that he cannot deal with. His fix is a coping mechanism for him, albeit an unhealthy one.

Even though he will not admit to cheating, come hell or high water (only b/c I don’t yet have “concrete” proof of this, like I do with his stealing), I can apply many of the same reasons he steals to why he cheats. In the end, it is still a form of non-compliance.

The first item on your list, “they may want those they owe to suffer”, really stood out for me, b/c my H has an issue with “Schadenfreude”, which means he takes pleasure in the misfortunes of others, and in the suffering of others (esp. my suffering, since I am closest to him). I know this, b/c I saw it written in his own hand, from his notes taken during his first session with his new therapist (he doesn’t know I read his notes each week, which I do in secret b/c I feel I need to know what I am dealing with, until I am able to get out). I am not encouraged at all that he is in therapy (though I would have been in the past). This is therapist #4 in as many years. He only brought up his stealing in his first session. He continues to steal as he’s going to therapy, yet fails to mention his ongoing stealing to his therapist. I told him last night that if he was going to change as he claims he will, then he would have changed by now. I told him when I put myself in his head and think the way he does (which I’ve trained myself to do, so that I can stay one step ahead of him) ”“ not for the purposes of being like him and doing what he does, but only so that I can figure out what the real truths are, since he won’t give those to me ”“ I realize that he paints the best possible picture of himself, so that he looks better to his therapist, and in the process, gets to avoid dealing with his issues, gets to avoid really facing himself, and gets to avoid doing any of the real work involved with change.

I had never heard of this word before. When I started researching it, it sent a chill through my body. Schadenfreude is a phenomena experienced by the masses, when their beloved sports team beats the opposing team, or when a ruthless politician is exposed for his wrongdoings. But obviously, this is a problem for my H on a much deeper, individual level, if it is written in his notes from his therapy session. Envy can drive the phenomena, and when Schadenfreude is experienced, it can create feelings of superiority. My H has admitted to feeling envious of me for all the traits I possess that he wishes he did, yet does not. Yet when I tell him I believe he takes great pleasure in doing what he can to undermine me and cause me to suffer, he says “No, you’re wrong, I don’t like to see you suffer, I only want the best for you”, as if.

The good news is that I am learning how to avoid suffering, try as hard as he does to make me suffer. It isn’t getting to me any longer, the way it once did. It is going to take me some time to pull off, but I have been busy formulating an exit plan, that I am putting into place little by little. At the same time, I document every lie and every incriminating thing he does in writing, and when possible, in pictures.

He has no idea all of what I’ve been up to. He tells me I am the one he wants to spend the rest of his life with (of course, why would he say otherwise?). I strongly believe his only motivation for spending the rest of his life with me is b/c he perceives me to be less of a threat to him if I stay with him. Otherwise, I know too much incriminating information about him that could cause him to lose his job, cause him to face legal consequences, and possibly cause him to go to jail. It is in his best interests to stay with me, b/c he perceives that if we are together, I will be less likely to blow the whistle on him, and more likely to protect him.

Ox Drover

Looking for truth,

I hope you can escape this “relationshit” before too long…my tolerance for putting up with that kind of stuff has long since evaporated. “You are a better man than I am, Gunga Din!” LOL

My son Patrick (the one in prison for murder) is generally pretty impulsive and does “stupid” things that get him caught in spite of having an IQ in the top 99th percentile. Yet, he is also capable of the “long con” and the one he tried to pull to have me killed was apparently planned over a period of at least 3-4 years, but he counted on another psychopath to keep HIS benefit in mind. LOL Boy was that a dumb move!

He also under estimated me (again!). As smart as he is intellectually, his estimation of the smarts of others is pretty bad. Yet he thinks he is an expert in it. I will give him this though, he has learned how to survive in prison and his apparently complete fearlessness absolutely AMAZES me.



I will answer your post later tonight…very interesting points here that I have some insight on. Thank you for your post 🙂


OxDrover, I can’t believe the trauma you have been through. The healing you have done is inspiring. When I read some of the worst stories here, such as yours, I sometimes think to myself, “Wow, I don’t really have it all that bad, as bad as it has been for me.” My spath H also underestimates me and my intelligence, and esp. my 6th sense when it comes to him. He does not realize how much he gives himself away when he’s being sneaky. I pick up on it in an instant, all by his body language, though it took me 5 years to fully develop this skill where he is concerned. Anyway, my tolerance has also long since evaporated, once I realized that if he can’t (won’t) give me the truth, that leaves me nothing to work with. I held onto the belief that all people are inherently good, that love can conquer all, and that everyone is capable of positive change for far too long. I was in fact projecting myself onto him, but I guess we all go through that at least initially, when dealing with them, before we realize we are not dealing with someone normal. I am doing all I can to escape from this “relationshit”, and all I can to keep my head above water in the interim.

Thx, Louise, I look forward to hearing what you have to say and about any and all insights you have to offer. This website has already helped pull me out of the fog, so that I could see the light, in so many ways. I have just recently turned on a g/f of mine to it as well, as I watch her in the throes of a new romantic relationshit that we are all trying to talk her down from. She told me she has read everything on here, and that when she did, it all described him to a “T”. I am hoping what she reads here will be the eye opener that gives her the strength to end things, before they get any further along. I, along with our other friends, have all asked her, “Do you want to end up trapped in a marriage like L (me)?”.

I know how very hard it is to get away from them, when our self-esteem has been compromised, no matter the reasons. For me, I was confident and had good self-esteem going in, but he systematically and covertly wore that down. If I could have seen what was happening back then, while it was happening, I would have gotten out then, before all the damage was done. It was only after I was able to build my self-esteem back up again, on my own, that I began to take steps to get out. For my g/f, she did not have good self-esteem going in, IMO, and therefore is relying on him solely to define that, which I feel is even far more dangerous. If you don’t already know what it feels like to feel good about yourself as defined by you, it becomes harder to work towards something you don’t understand, b/c it never existed for you before, so you don’t know what it feels like to experience it. If the only way you feel good about yourself is through others, esp. when it involves a romantic partner, it is going to be that much harder to break away, IMO. We are trying to teach her how to build herself up on her own, but it is a really hard concept for some to grasp, if they don’t already know how to do this. I consider myself lucky that I do (I had to learn, so that I could survive growing up with a BPD mother, which is now helping me survive being married to a spath).

Feeling good about yourself should not be solely defined by how you look on the outside; it should be more closely defined based upon who we are on the inside. When I shift the focus away from my appearance (let’s face it, I am not getting any younger, at the age of 50), and instead put that focus on developing myself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, that is when my self-esteem improves. It’s not that I don’t take care of my appearance or that I don’t care about my appearance, b/c I do. But my appearance is not the only part of who I am; my appearance is not the most important part of who I am. Who I am on the inside is. And I’d rather be alone, than be with someone who places the most importance on physical appearance.

But when you live with a spath who is also a sex addict, it becomes easy to lose that focus, b/c what they do involving other women can greatly undermine your self-esteem, and suddenly, your physical appearance takes center stage again, either b/c you’re feeling badly about yourself after comparing yourself to the other women, or in addition to that, you begin to compete with these other women again, and try to do all you can to capture his attention, so that it isn’t on them. Fortunately, I no longer do that. I refuse to compete with the other women. They can have him, b/c I no longer want him, and he does not get to define how I feel about myself any longer either. At least that’s how it is on my best days, and I now have more of those than I do bad days. Each time he manages to send me back down into the pit, I bounce back more quickly than before, and I become a little bit stronger each time. What used to last days, weeks, or even months, now only lasts a few hours at most, if that. I spend far less time in the pit, and far more time out in the light.


very interesting topic. Why does the spath comply sometimes and sometimes not? The answer is the same as when you ask, “why is he nice sometimes and sometimes not?”

He complies when he can use compliance as part of his mask.

His focus and intent 24/7 is to harm others. So, for example, he may never pay child support until one day he starts to comply. When he complies, when he is nice, when he apologizes, BEWARE, he is in predatory mode. In this example there could be a number of reasons for his compliance. It could be that he needs to create a mask to look good at his job. Or he heard you just inherited some money and he’s going to try to make a comeback with you. Most likely though, he has a new victim and he just likes to take her money and send it to you. It makes a spath happy to see someone else taking responsibility for what he owes.

In the mask of sanity, Cleckley describes over a dozen examples of in-patients who “complied” perfectly well in therapy. They seemed the model patient with great insight into their problems. So much so, that they could earn their release from the mental ward. In each of these cases, the model patient was caught doing the same things or worse, sometimes just hours after the release and they were returned to Cleckley’s hospital.

In each case, they had someone at home who cared tremendously about their welfare, a wife or parents who bent over backwards to keep them from going to prison.

It might seem that the spath’s goal was freedom to do what he wants, but in fact his goal was freedom to torture those who care about him. He needs constant proof that others care about him and this can be provided by their reactions to him when he is in danger.

My own spath, in the very last con, tried to make me think the following things, one after the other:
1) that homeland security was after him
2) that he was going to jail
3) that the police were pointing automatic weapons at him while he was leaving me voice mail telling me that the only way I could save him was by answering the phone when they called me.

I was supposed to save him. I was supposed to prove how much I cared. It was all a con and I knew it, so I didn’t answer. But he could have used any number of ways to get me to answer, but the ones he used were ones that would show how much I cared for his safety. Interesting freudian slip?

The following example is from my childhood and it is prophetic. If I’d understood it, it could have foretold what my life was going to be like.

When I was about 8 and my spath brother was about nine, he began playing an interesting little game to manipulate me. He would use two fingers to “walk” across a table or other furniture, near the edge. In a little baby voice, he’d say, “I’m going for a walk, I hope I don’t fall off this edge…it’s slippery…ladeedaaaaa” There were variations but that was the gist of it. Numerous times on this “walk” he would pretend to trip and fall.
“HEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLLPP!” I was supposed to run and catch him. And I always DID. I couldn’t help myself. I’d get very upset about the “little man” hurting himself. Now, I knew that it was just his two fingers on my spath brother’s hand, but he made so much drama that I felt like it was real. I became hyper-vigilent the moment spathbro’s hand went into two-finger mode. I had to catch or “cure” the little man. It was the pity ploy, being done just to see if he could make me care.

Because I knew it was just his hand, I guess I wasn’t really reacting to his hand, but to the obvious need that my brother had for my response. I knew instinctively that he needed “rescuing” and I wanted him to know that I would always be there for him. And I always was, for the rest of my life – until 2009 when he called the cops and framed me with a DV so I’d go to jail. but anyhoooo.

The game we played was prophetic, in that I was going to spend the rest of my life being a spath rescuer because I couldn’t help feeling responsible. And it was also prophetic that my spath brother was going to be a spath, using the pity ploy to get his needs met. It is sad. Yet, that game helped me to understand why spaths will harm themselves. They just want to see the empathy on your face. They want to see someone trying to rescue them and making themselves responsible for them.



Thank you for this article – it’s a good one! My ex-spath is a risk-taker, in my opinion, not giving a second thought to the consequences of his actions. He lives by the “seat-of-his-pants”, always has and always will.


Skylar, I have a narcissistic sister, I don’t think she is spath, but can’t be sure. I mean, to me and our mother she is spath, but not to other people, as far as I know. She joined forces with my ex in trying to destroy me, although she had met her only twice. At the time, she said they had a ‘connection’. She is very successful and ‘good company’, although it centres around being blind drunk with others blind drunk. I believe it set a pattern, so that I was an easy target, probably still am. I can be bullied very effectively with eyes.

In terms of committments, my ex made herself unemployed within weeks of meeting me (well, her bosses stopped talking to her and she left). She then moved into my house (which I own), allowing her to have a bit of a mortgage break, and convinced me to put all my savings into a ‘joint account’. I know, stupid, the bank staff looked concerned. The next phase was that I ‘must put a ring on her finger’, then a phone call while I was at work saying the registry office had a cancellation in three weeks. My computer was whisked off to her father as it was ‘too big’ for the house, so isolation was complete, and we were ‘married’ by a very concerned looking registrar without any of my family or friends knowing. She was well aware I didn’t know this meant she had half ownership of my house, and then set about driving me to the point of suicide. Very nearly succeeded too.

I don’t know about short term and long term thinking. I played her at chess a couple of times and she was rubbish :). Knocked out all the pieces as fast as possible, as if that was the point of the game. Same with poker, reckoned she was the best (probably because of the poker face, which she uses every second of every day anyhow – except for the ‘revealing stage’ designed for maximum impact). However, never could play the long game. She did worry about bills, which seems to be against what is said here. Stored bottles and bottles of shampoo and stuff, all in a line.

Fear I am rambling here now! It’s interesting and helpful reading all of your posts. I can see how lucky I was too, there are worse out there. I still dream of her coming at me with a knife, and have had to wean myself off looking under my bed before I go to sleep. Truly, the boogeywoman!


hey you can fix your name by logging into your account and changing it to Aesop.

I wonder if your spath was only faking being bad at those games. They do pretend to be clueless in order to get away with murder. Who would suspect “poor little ol’ me” of murder?

Your spath moved fast to make you responsible for her, all in the name of love. They look for that, you know: responsibility.

The twist is that they could easily keep us responsible for EVER and EVER, but that isn’t all they want. They want to sabotage us for BEING responsible. They envy our ability to be responsible and they are determined to sabotage that. They hate anyone who is good, responsible, loving, empathetic and they are determined to take those qualities away. I hate to admit it but it does work, in a way. We end up being angry, mistrusting, disconnected, and once they take our resources we fail in our own ability to be responsible. The slime connects and we are contaminated.

Getting uncontaminated is difficult. I’m not sure we can ever feel completely clean.

Ox Drover

LHA–that is the thing I LOVE about this blog is that there are so many smart and articulate people here. even when we disagree, we do it in such a way that everyone’s opinions are respected. I learn something new every day! Glad to have you aboard! Hope to see more articles as well! Also hope you will jump into the discussions in addition to the articles. We have some lively ones!

I think the things that motivate “them” aren’t always apparent to bystanders or even victims while it is happening. The “duping delight” is sometimes apparent when they violate the “rules” and “get by” with it….other times not so much is obvious. (at least to me) LOL


My ex-spath exhibits every single trait on every list I’ve ever seen of psychopathic traits, except one–he is a good father to his 3 kids (although not very nice to his ex-wife).

In fact, not only does he pay his child support, but he also buys whatever he can for his kids above and beyond what he gives their mother each month, to the best of his ability (he’s a plumber and not wealthy). He takes them clothes shopping, pays for their cell phones, etc. Every article I’ve read about spaths, including this one, implies they only care about their kids when there is something in it for themselves, but I was with him for 6 years and never saw an ulterior motive for that.

And his kids are pretty well-adjusted, especially his 20-year old son who lived with my ex-spath from the time he was 12 (and I was there most of that time as well), while the girls lived with their mother. Now his 17-year old daughter is living with him (her choice) and he does everything for her.

Because of this, I often slide back into wondering if he REALLY IS a spath, which is a slippery slope which has led me to abandon NC many times and return to him, all because of this one niggling doubt.

He is a pathological liar, a sex addict, always juggles multiple women while swearing he’s faithful, plays the women against each other, obviously for sport, is easily bored, hates being alone, is impulsive and has multiple addictions, is so narcissistic we always celebrated his “birthday week” (which begins tomorrow!) while he always forgot my one birthday day every year. He is glib and charming, love bombed me then began the devaluation with emotional and verbal abuse, etc., which continued until I finally figured out what he is and left. Every single thing I’ve ever read about psychopaths he does in spades, EXCEPT he’s a good father.

Can anyone explain this seeming contradiction? I’m afraid that, unless I can wrap my head around it, I’ll end up back with him next time he comes around, just because I still have that small seed of doubt that maybe he’s not spath. Does that make sense to anyone?

Ox Drover


So, no one is PERFECT! So he treats his kids well….I know psychopaths that are bonkers about their dogs and treat them like little gods. Other psychopaths like Michael Vick dog fight them to the death.

He treats YOU like shiat –so what does how he treats his kids make any difference to you?

He owns the kids, sees them as EXTENSIONS of himself so he treats them the way he wants to be treated, but that does NOT mean he is good, kind or not a psychopath.

You will go back if you want to…they are an addiction, so ONLY if YOU make up your mind to stay NC will you. If you are looking for an excuse to go back because he “might not be a psychopath” then you can always find one.

The bottom line it doesn’t matter if he is a psychopath or a pork chop, if he is toxic to you, he is toxic. Read here and keep on learning. NC is the only healthy way to deal with them. God bless.


Thanks Ox Drover–No, I have no desire to go back. He showed up here about a month ago and I sent him away, which I NEVER would have done in the past. I can feel myself recovering day by day, but I tend to doubt myself a lot (one of the reasons he probably targeted me), so sometimes I just think I’m wrong, although mostly I know I’m not, at least in relation to him.

I have a therapist who has extra training in psychopathy (and her brother is one), so I’m very fortunate for her and also for this blog, without which I’d still be with him living in hell.

And upon further reflection, I think he is less a good father than that he appears to really love his kids. What kind of a father tells his kids to lie to me whenever one of his ex- or new girlfriends came over when I wasn’t there? Or badmouths their mother to them. Or verbally abuses me within their earshot? And what is he teaching his daughters by bringing in a parade of different women into the house every time he is single?

I guess he sucks at being a father, but I still believe he actually loves them. So if he can love THEM, maybe he can love someone else? Not me I guess, but maybe his current girlfriend? That’s what keeps me up at night sometimes, but less and less as time goes on, thanks to all of you.

But I also see that, yes, he probably sees them as extensions of himself and he DEFINITELY loves himself, so I guess that explains it!

Thanks for letting me ramble, but doing so really did solve this quandary for me!


treating his kids well is PART OF HIS MASK.
You said it yourself quote:

Because of this, I often slide back into wondering if he REALLY IS a spath, which is a slippery slope which has led me to abandon NC many times and return to him, all because of this one niggling doubt.

LOTS of psychopaths use a kitty or a puppy or a child as a LURE. Often times, they use another woman or her picture to make themselves look “human”. Those pets and people are his arm candy that he uses to lure other humans into his trap. People assume that he must be a normal human being or else that lovely woman or those great kids wouldn’t be around him.

My spath used cats. He made sure everyone knew how much he loved cats. He had his picture taken with my cats, he carried pictures of our cats in his wallet, later he put it on the desktop of his laptop which he carried around and brought into restaurants so it appeared he was working. He was the BEST cat father in the world.

Little did I know that he killed two of my cats just to see me in pain.

Abbri, when you see two opposing behaviors, the good and the bad, you have to KNOW that one of them is fake. Good people don’t pretend to be bad, but bad people do pretend to be good.


Skylar, I’m so sorry about your cats, that is just horrible! What an evil monster.

I lived with he and his son for most of our 6 years together, and his daughters visited most weekends and school vacations, and his seeming devotion to them never flagged, even when the rest of his mask came off and he started treating me like dirt, so I don’t know.

So I don’t think he’s putting on a show, but I do now believe it’s more that he DOES “love” them because they are mini versions of himself, and he sure as hell loves himself (he never passes a mirror without checking himself out! lol).



Thank you so much for this post! It made me sigh in relief!



Thank you for that insightful post at 6:16PM!

Ox Drover


“What is LOVE?” You are right when you think bout it as you did in your post…he does not model good behavior and good morals for his daughters or his son if he has one.

Part of being a “good parent” is modeling good behavior, not encouraging LIES. What “good” father teaches his kids to LIE? Not any I know. What “good father” shows his children that he is a TRAMP?

So don’t get all musky about this guy being father of the year, I will guarantee you he is not. No matter what he buys them or how many baseball games he goes to, it doesn’t make him a good parent. So rest easy, Girlfriend, he is not capable of loving anyone except himself, and then only narcissistically.


Louise, You’re welcome. Here’s some more relief for you!

I was with my spath for 25 years and never had a clue. His devotion to the cats was unsurpassed. When Jasper got very sick, spath stayed up all night giving him little bits of water so he wouldn’t get dehydrated. He did the same thing for Spot once. I was dying of exhaustion and worry and I fell asleep. But spath kept vigil for over 24 hours. He did all the hard work of caring for them when they were sick because it made him look like a hero.

Of course I cleaned the litter box. Spath said, “I would never, ever be caught dead cleaning a litter box.” true.
So when I left him and he said, “how COULD you take my family away from me? Why couldn’t you leave me at least one or two of them? Don’t you KNOW how much they mean to meeeeee?”

I replied, “Because spath, you said you would never be caught dead cleaning a litter box. You can’t take care of them. They need the litter box cleaned.”

LOL. Spath never could figure out what to say to me when I threw his own spears back into his face.

Anyway, I went off on a tangent. I didn’t want to ADMIT that he had killed the cats until I understood that he was a spath. Then I couldn’t deny it. All the spath clues were there.

Abbri, you wouldn’t believe how many women here have the idea in their heads that the spath is treating the “new girl” better than he treated her. Spaths like to seed these insecurities and jealousies in our heads. If he can treat her so good, then there must be something wrong with me, right? WROOOOOOOONG! it’s an act to make you feel exactly that way.

All spaths are alike, none of them care about any one. We are all supply to them, even when they treat us well, they have an ulterior motive.


My x-spath definitely played “friend in need” game. One of his friends was in the hospital and he would visit him then tell me how it “broke his heart” to see his friend in such a bad state (due to a suicide attempt).

On what became the defining moment of our relationship, he insisted I go to the hospital when a rash I had erupted all over, fearing anaphylactic shock due to anti-biotics, which actually turned out to be a bad case of shingles.

He spent the night in the hospital with me and most of the following day. He went with me to the drugstore to get my medicines, made sure I had enough to eat and saw me home.

The next day, he dumped me by email.






Thank you for more relief!



Classic sociopath, even if he is not HIV positive.


Hi Linda,
Great article. I totally agree with this:
“Psychopaths’ compliance has to do with what’s in it for them.”
Long con, short con, this is their motivation.

I love what your wrote about self-esteem and feeling good about ourselves. Very perceptive and true. Best of luck and blessings with your ‘get away’ plan.

“He complies when he can use compliance as part of his mask.
I completely agree, skylar.

“It might seem that the spath’s goal was freedom to do what he wants, but in fact his goal was freedom to torture those who care about him.”
Ugh. I think you’re correct here, too. They.Are.So.Sick.and.Twisted!! It boggles my mind. Think of the sickest, most twisted reason for doing something and then we’ll understand them.

(((skylar))) I’m so sorry what you endured with your brother. Yes, you were well trained to save & serve an spath.

“They just want to see the empathy on your face. They want to see someone trying to rescue them and making themselves responsible for them.”
I agree. It makes me sick.

“They want to sabatoge us for BEING responsible. They envy our ability to be responsible and they are determined to sabotage that.”
Another great insight. I can feel the venom of their envy.

“They hate anyone who is good, responsible, loving, empathetic and they are determined to take those qualities away. I hate to admit it but it does work, in a way. We end up being angry, mistrusting, disconnected, and once they take our resources we fail in our own ability to be responsible.”
Wow, so true. Yup, even if we escape, they leave us scarred but definitely wiser.


I seem to be a bit behind everyone, time wise :). There seems to be a marked lack of knowledge in the uk. I don’t really understand this as it must be as prevalent.

I wanted to mention that my ex also appeared to love cats. However, the cats were NOT well-adjusted – one of them kept trying to bite through the electricity wires, and one of the first things I did was buy tubing to cover these wires. He had already given himself one shock, and blew up a lamp while I was there. She also had trained him to do this really weird upside down manoevre, which was really undignified. Cats, in my experience, are keen to hold onto their dignity! The other, bless him, was just a wee mite. Her first chat up line was ‘wanna come and smell my kittens belly’? I miss him, because he was my kitten too. She asked me to care for him for a while when I finally got her to move out, but I knew she would love wrenching us apart too much. They were house cats, just as all her plants were planted in pots so their roots couldn’t roam free. Can’t lose control now!

Skylar, I can’t seem to change my name but thanks. It says it is set in stone :).


looking for your take on this dear lovefraud posters: I was visiting an old friend in another city. she is with a fellow who she has been with for 4 years. I knew her when she was married to someone who fit her like a glove (now, very sadly, deceased). She met this guy a couple of years after her husband’s suicide.

I was with my friend and her bf for 2 days. My friend started coughing at a dinner party. i thought she might be having an allergic response to something in one of the dishes. she’s been having increasing allergy problems. I mentioned my concern to her bf in the kitchen (we had been talking about allergies a lot). His response to me was: ‘she’s fine, she wants to be the centre of attention.’ My response was, ‘oh, really.’ his response was: ‘I have known her long enough to know that’s what it is.’

whoa, holy triangulation batman! got a real sense that he wanted to see what he could ‘get away with’ with me. later, I thought i should have said, ‘jealous much?’

i saw other controlling behaviour cloaked in the wrapping of, ‘i am a new age sensitive guy’. this guy squicked me out, all the more so as she is looking at being less devoted to her very satisfying work to make more space for him – as a fair and right thing to do for one’s partner. i doubt the integrity of this man, and his claim to the title of partner.

okay, so I have been mulling this over in my head, and thinking about the pros and cons of telling her. I know it would hurt her to hear this, and i did have one chance to speak with her and didn’t…the thought of being the bearer of that news and how fucking hurtful it would hurt my heart. would she believe me? would it hurt our friendship beyond it’s strength at this point – we are just reconnecting after many many years, and the relationship could be much closer than before.

I hesitate also, as i watched her handle his other controlling stuff in a pretty even way – she didn’t lay down and she didn’t lose it – she is pretty dogged though, and it showed in the way she handled his behaviour. It looked like this could just be a couple trying to work things out….

‘cept this remark in which he tried to gain an ally AGAINST her.

I don’t think he likes women much, in a real genuine way. i hate to say this, ’cause it sounds cliche, but he had real issues with his mom. she is gone now, but within the last 2 years. it sounds like he was her emo caretaker for his lifetime, and has a ton of baggage with her name on it.

they will probably come visit this summer, and the thought of this guy in my house makes me want to puke. what he said/ did is against my ethics. it’s not acceptable.

i am bringing this here, because YOU ALL know about the tell/ don’t tell dynamic, and how the shit tends to land on US.

Do you have ideas, directions, questions or feedback that could help clarify this situation further?

Thanks all!

one joy


The messenger always gets shot. All you can do is hang in there and be a friend to her. Be there when it all goes horribly wrong. Make it clear to him you are her friend, that she has good friends. Difficult, because if he thinks you aren’t on his side, he will try and undermine you, get you out of the picture. A subtle comment here, another there. Watch him turn her against you!

Maybe staying neutral with him, so you are playing his game effectively, and staying in the picture for when she needs you?

I don’t know, just some thoughts. Goodluck!


First, for the newcomers, let me add another “compliance” example, that being his words from the email in which he dumped me. When I opened the email. the first paragraph was long and densely typed, making it difficult to read, so my eyes were drawn to the second paragraph, where he described all the things he would do for me while I was sick, such as bring me food, stop by for a chat, make sure I was comfortable, even tuck me in or something to that effect.

Then he finishes with “but of course you know I cannot do that, with you living in New York and my living in London.” Talk about the “superficial effect.”


one joy,

I think it depends on your relationship with your friend up to this point. For instance, regarding YOUR relationship with YOUR spath — was she a support to you? did you tell her? did she get it? was SHE the one who helped YOU get it? Etc.

I have a friend like that — we sometimes stay very blunt, even off base things to one another. In our case it works because we used to live near one another but for the last 12 years have lived on opposite coasts. So (like Lovefraud kinda) we are email friends now — and our circles of friends do not cross. It is safer… yet we have a history, know and love each other.

but for most people… it would be meddling to speak up, unless she asks you directly. Even then you would have to be careful. In my experience, it is better to be a good listener. You could provide an opening (a personal story about YOU) and see if she then brings up her own relationship and ASKS you your take on it. Otherwise, I’d suggest keeping your thoughts to yourself but check in on her every so often to see how she is. Don’t let him “divide and conquer” but maintain your connection with her (in case that is what is going on).

You could also find a way to bring up your own spath history (make it only about you) and how Lovefraud (for example) has really helped you open your eyes… it could be planting a seed for her, just in case she might need it.


hi 20 years,

we were political activists together in another time and place, and lived in the same community (and i cherish that long knowledge of each others’ lives, even if it wasn’t particularly intimate), and are now just reconnecting. i have never gone to her for emo support, although I reached out to her a lot when he husband died a few years ago. (i just told her about the spath on this trip.)

i don’t know what her guy is – but i know he is controlling and manipulative, and immediately tried to triangulate us. ALWAYS a bad sign.

I am not going to ask her questions about her relationship, or try to plant a seed as in this case, for some reason i don’t think it would work. I also realize, in responding to your post, that I don’t want to be involved in that way. I have what looks like important info to me (might not be to her) about someone she is about to more deeply rearrange her life for. i just want her to have the info. it’s power for her.



hehe Aeosp, like your candor: ‘The messenger always gets shot.’

I think you are right about i have to handle him:
‘Maybe staying neutral with him, so you are playing his game effectively, and staying in the picture for when she needs you?

she does have lots of people in her life. that’s one of the things he is jealous of. suspect his mom was vivacious also.

what a waste of time bad relationships are…we have finite years on this earth, and yet we squander them without even realizing it.



one joy, your response hints at something else, too. As part of our OWN process of learning to recognize spathlike behavior and red flags (since we were blind before), I think we may continue to encounter people who have these traits. Sometimes they are at a somewhat safer distance, as in we witness our friends being in controlling and manipulative relationships. And then have to decide what to do with that information. Still a part of our learning process of pattern recognition and developing healthy boundaries.

Don’t you think it is helpful to YOU in some ways, to be able to recognize this now…?

As for squandering our time, I can definitely see that view, but also the other side of that coin — I have learned and grown so much (and the lessons continue to come!) from my “bad relationships.” Though I am continuing to grieve for the good relationships that might have been, and it is still very hard for me to see my children suffering through their growing up in the messed up family of their father and me… even though I divorced him when they were very small, the contact has continued (he is big on power and control and would never give up contact).

At the same time… it is also true for my children that they are learning important lessons about what constitutes a healthy relationship, and to recognize spaths. I’m hoping so much that when they are adults, they will have well-developed spathdar and end up in loving, kind relationships. But I don’t know what the future holds for them, or for me.


20 years, yep, for sure this is about how i live and what i have learned. and lf continues to be a valuable resource to help me learn, and refine how to implement what i have learned.

about squandering time – i have learned so much from bad relationships, that i have had no time for good ones. 😉


thanks for the hug.
you said:

“Think of the sickest, most twisted reason for doing something and then we’ll understand them.”

That’s the reason we can’t wrap our minds around them and they keep getting away with everything they do. Because NOBODY thinks that way. Yet they do.

One Joy,
Patience. You can say what was unsaid, but you can’t take back what you’ve said.

You aren’t around her enough to influence her as much as he is. He has the upper hand here and he will drive a wedge between you two. I agree with Aesop about staying neutral so you can get a better perspective with time.

The fact that her husband committed suicide makes the picture more complex.


Throwing in a coupla cents…One Joy

I am in a similar situation, as some of you may have read. Only my friend is in the beginning stages of being lovebombed.

His new spath sized me up, IMMEDIATELY, and triangulated the relationship. I, not without sadness, bowed out. He knows about my experience with a spath. He has some rudimentary information about red flags. And I told him the night she created drama (in the first hour I ever met the woman), that I thought he had a person who is disturbed on the line.

He doesn’t believe it. He is being lovebombed and thinks I am over reacting, and don’t see ‘who she really is’ behind the weird behavior.

This messenger only needs to be shot once, to stay away.

So, One Joy, even armed with pretty good information my friend is gladly going to ‘slaughter’. And I am not willing to risk my own sanity and balance-of-life to try and ‘rescue’ him.

I feel really relieved to have taken myself out of harms way. It is amazing to have learned enough to be able to make the right decision ‘by me’, without having to follow a step by step process out of a self-help book. I did what I needed to do, without self-doubt. Without too much thought even.

THANK-YOU LOVEFRAUD! Thank-you me…..

Sorry about your friend, One Joy..I know I am going to miss mine. But it just isn’t possible to stay connected without having to socialize with his New Suck-Hole.

donna dixon

Hi Abbri ~ I questioned the same things about my ex and that’s what brought me to LF.

My spath was a GREAT father!! Heck, he was even a GREAT husband for 25 years (at least that’s what I thought). He continues to fulfill his monetary obligations but he thrives on chaos and even tries to manipulate his grown children into dealings with his current relationship. Fortunately they see what he is now and on most accounts stand up to him. But, he is still their father and he does cause them emotional damage.

He still tries to LOVE BOMB me from time to time thru emails but I hold fast and don’t respond. It’s become amusing to some degree, knowing he is currently living with his latest squeeze but
working the old charm on my psyche. That too, helps reinforce the fact that while we were married he was amusing himself on websites with other women.

Regardless of what your guy is ~ why would you even let yourself consider reuniting with him? The fact that he is a liar and sex addict should be enough to validate to yourself that you deserve BETTER! That’s what did it for me. I DESERVED BETTER!

Skylar~ Why would a spath refer to themselves as “sick”? Mine said that once but I thought at the time he was referring to his gambling.


slimone said:
“This messenger only needs to be shot once, to stay away.
So, One Joy, even armed with pretty good information my friend is gladly going to ’slaughter’. And I am not willing to risk my own sanity and balance-of-life to try and ’rescue’ him.
I feel really relieved to have taken myself out of harms way.”

Yes, agree. I believe we can’t save those who are gladly going to ’slaughter’ because they are blinded & in denial. Hopefully, they won’t get too hurt, but WE CANNOT SAVE them. Maybe the best we can do is pray for them & if they finally see the light at some later point and ask for help, then we can help them. My T called this ‘letting someone live their own karma”.


Donna dixon,
it’s good that you are holding fast and keeping the knowledge of what he is foremost in your mind. They do try to make a comeback, just to test the waters. It’s creepy.

I’m reading an article on BPD and NPD here:

It’s a 10 part series, kinda long, but very informative.
It has quotes from various NPD’s and BPD’s describing how they feel. They DO know they are sick. They know they have this great big empty void that they try to fill. Gambling seems to be one way they do it. Sex is another. I think the drama is the biggest thing for them though, because it gets them attention and that’s what they really need.

donna dixon

Skylar ~ Thank You for the link!! I’m definitely reading it. I just got chills though when you mentioned the empty void ~ he said that too ~ he felt like he had a “hole” in him (again I chalked it up to gambling).

Yep, no way in HELL (oops! Already been there!) is that man getting back into my life!!! LOL!!!


“Blame-Storms and Rage Attacks Common to Borderlines, Narcissists ”

Thank you, luv!!! This is a ‘must read’ for me!

I see it’s written by Randi Kreger. She wrote “stop walking on eggshells”, a great book.


Great link, skylar.

Good read while I await next contact.



20 years: ‘spathdar’, love it! 🙂


oh, I can’t take credit for that — someone else said it first (I’m not sure who, though).


You’re welcome, ladies.

I wonder if my spath had BOTH. She says that the incidence of both PD’s in one person is 37%.

This is my own conjecture, of course, but maybe a spath has both problems and he is suppressing the deep emotions.

He really did have a terrible fear of abandonment. Yet, I can also say that he lacked fear. He taught himself to fly a helicopter. I’ve tried controlling it and it’s really really hard to get used to. If you don’t have an instructor ready to grab the controls, it would be very very nerve wracking.


Gosh, this is such a great series of articles and even though I feel empowered by reading them, I also feel so sad to have these people in my life. They’re so ugly, hurtful, dangerous & distorted.

When they’re undiagnosed, it’s so hard to conclusively figure out what they actually suffer from. But, one thing is for sure: they’re 100% toxic.



BPD and NPD are Cluster-B PDs, along with APD (Antisocial Personality Disorder).

Thus, studying them offers some insight into sociopaths. A difference is that those with BPD typically know something is wrong with them, those with NPD sometimes know something is wrong with them, while sociopaths rarely acknowledge something is wrong with them.

Externally, sociopaths occasionally appear borderline. Mine certainly did. Not with true rage but these inappropriate reactions and outbursts. Another is that they both have a defining trait. Self-harm is so common among borderlines that it is defining, with the converse being almost equally true — all borderlines self-harm and all self-harmers are borderline.

I think sociopaths have a defining trait as well, other than lack of empathy, that being deviant sexual behavior. It may be well masked but is always present — extreme promiscuity, violent S&M, pedophilia, risky sex in the HIV era.


I spent so much time, over the last couple of years, trying to understand the ins and outs of BPD, NPD, other things, etc. and I’m not saying it wasn’t helpful. I had to go through that. (and I’m not saying I’m “done,” either, or know all about it — I know I have lots to learn and apply in my own life, still…) At the time, I had a deep, burning need to really understand the motivations of spaths. In particular, my ex-husband and a couple of other people (patterns of relationships) in my life, and where I fit into all of it.

Honestly, while I learned a lot and it helped me and I think it was a necessary step, it made my head spin!!! It helped and made it worse, at the same time.

Now I think I’m moving onto the next phase, because I have pretty much nearly totally lost interest in teasing apart and lining up and putting into venn diagrams all of those “traits.” I actually kind of find the details of personality disorders sort of boring, now. I also see it as a helpful construct to the naming of it. But also a man-made construct, always under revision by committee.

OK, I’m not saying that to be contrary (although I know that it is). Just that this does seem to be moving into a new way of viewing all of it…

at first, it was invisible to me and I was vulnerable to them. I didn’t see the evil that was in front of my nose. Then I saw it and it horrified and fascinated me. I wanted to really, really understand it. Study it. Name it. See if I could get close without getting burned. Or fix it. Test it, poke it. It’s slippery, slithery, and hard to draw a bead on it. But that’s because they want to distract you with the masks.

Now I just want to stay away from it. To recognize it, and not be tempted by any of it (including the lovebombing seduction). Evil really is banal, but covered over with layers and layers of stuff to simultaneously attract and repel and fascinate. It wants us to engage with it.

I really liked that youtube video “Defense Against The Psychopath.” Really boiled it down to its essence: Here’s what they are, here’s what they do, here’s how they do it, here’s how you get targeted, here is the pattern, here are your choices to free yourself (preferably early in the process).

The predatory behavior patterns become more obvious, and the motivations of the spaths become less important.

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