Editor’s note: Lovefraud received the following letter from a reader whom we’ll call “Maisie.”
Here is my story. I would be grateful for any thoughts as I’m still trying to make sense of something I went through.
I was in the very best relationship for 25 years and then he died.
Afterwards I was utterly heartbroken and alone as a result I think of being still quite young in my circle of friends and them not being able to cope with the tragedy.
In the village where I lived a newcomer stopped me whilst I was walking to introduce himself. He would stop from time to time to talk to me.
I was in a desperately lonely state and eventually agreed to visit him.
As his neighbours were known to me, so I thought he was relatively safe. I had little attraction to him originally, I was really just looking for a friend, but then it all becomes textbook.
He literally swept me off my feet, given how I was feeling it was overwhelming.
I won’t bore you with the subsequent events as I’m sure they are pretty standard stuff … I now realise it was intense love bombing, followed by a subtle insidious devaluation. An awful lot of silent treatment, withdrawal of intimacy, criticism, etc.
Quite early on he said, “I think I may be a psychopath“ (this as a result of admitting to never feeling fear). I just laughed it off.
It was only 5 years later, after I got away from him, crawling around in a heap, trying to make sense of what I had been through that those words came back to me and I started to research.
I’m 3 years into recovery but what still haunts me is this:
WHAT DID HE WANT FROM ME???????
As far as I still know, there were no other women. Triangulation was when I was in competition with a boat!! (seriously) which he has now ended up living on alone somewhere on the Mediterranean.
He didn’t want money.
He stopped all sexual intimacy within 18 months of the relationship and I now realise the pain that caused me, gave him enormous pleasure. So it wasn’t sex he wanted. (I’m almost convinced he did the first 18 months of the relationship on viagra from stuff I’ve subsequently learnt.)
I was caught for 3 years waiting for either the lovely man I’d fallen for to come back or for him to end the relationship, which he insisted he did not want to do. Nothing made sense. It was like I was paralysed, not knowing which way I should go. His behaviour got odder and odder in that he would simply look through me as if I didn’t actually exist … that is like looking into a pure black hole, very frightening.
My leaping off point was when I suddenly could feel the potential for physical violence in him one evening. (Fortunately we lived close to each other but not with each other) so I got out.
i can only describe that I was so confused about how somebody could be 2 different people, that I was left feeling as if I’d somehow been raped by him but in some strange psychic way. It’s taken ages to get over that feeling.
I am recovering. It’s been slow, as whilst this was all happening, I lost my sister, mother and then just after I ended the relationship, my best friend. So it’s been trying to process grief and abuse, a bit of a cocktail.
My concern is this he just doesn’t fit fully into the stuff I’ve read in the books for any of the cluster b types, and yet surely something really odd was going on?
All my other relationships have been good and when over, lots of good memories. But this still leaves a feeling that I’d come up against something so dark that I would like to utterly eradicate from my past.
As I said, any thoughts you have as to what I came up against would be very helpful.
Donna Andersen responds
I am so sorry for your experience. It was certainly shattering, especially since you had a wonderful relationship for so long before encountering the sociopath.
Yes, the man was a sociopath — even though he didn’t seem to exploit you in the way sociopaths typically do. He didn’t take money from you. He stopped wanting sex from you. He didn’t live with you. So you are justified in asking, “what did he want?”
Maisie, your story illustrates the raw core of sociopathic motivation: Power and control. All this man wanted was power and control over you.
It is very difficult for those of us who have normal emotions, consciences and the ability to love to grasp how profoundly different sociopaths — especially those who would be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder or psychopathy.
They have no love motivation. They have no desire for authentic connections with other people. They are exploiters, and other people are only pawns or a means to an end.
So how does this happen? It’s a combination of genetic endowment, biology, and what these people experience as they are growing up. The end result is that their social motivations are skewed.
Human beings are social animals — we are meant to live with others. Therefore, we have built-in motivations to enable us to live in community with others. Researchers have identified four of these social motivations. They are:
- Attachment — the desire to be with others
- Sex — physical intimacy and procreation
- Caretaking — the desire to take care of other people
- Power — the desire to be a leader, acquire resources
The first three of these motivations — attachment, sex and caretaking — are the components of love. The fourth motivation — power — isn’t necessarily bad. Our power motivation makes us want to achieve and accomplish.
What’s important is that the motivations are balanced. In regular, empathic people, the love motivations keep the power motivation in check. Most of us will go after what we want, but we won’t intentionally harm others in the process.
In sociopaths, however, the love motivations are weak, so there are no brakes on their power motivation. Therefore, the power motivation runs amok and takes over the personality.
As a result, only wielding power over others brings a sense of satisfaction to sociopaths. Love relationships, to them, are essentially useless.
Making the point
Maisie, your story perfectly illustrates this point. The man essentially got nothing from you, except for the satisfaction of controlling you. And in reality, that was all he wanted.
This is a really key point, and critical for anyone who wants to understand sociopaths to comprehend. Thank you for sharing your story, and allowing me to use it to help others.