By | January 15, 2014 107 Comments

Recovery From a Sociopath: The fake victim and the real victim

quinn pierce blogby Quinn Pierce

When I first met my ex-husband, I was moved by the amount of compassion and sympathy he showed for the traumatic experiences of my past.  To me, it was an endearing quality for someone to be so caring and supportive.  He kept telling me how honored he was that I trusted him enough to tell him things I hadn’t talked to many people about before.

Ulterior Motives

I look back with cringe-inducing clarity, and I recognize several ulterior motives for his false compassion. For one, he was assessing me as a partner.  He learned that, at the time, I was a very secretive person.  I had a select few people I confided in, and I was not one to talk to others about my own painful experiences.

This is a very appealing trait, I can imagine, to a sociopath.  My ex-husband knew I would not be quick to complain to others about anything he would do in the future, or recognize his actions for the abuse they would be.

Secondly, he was testing my dedication and trust toward him.  How much would I divulge, how comfortable could he make me feel?

Lastly, and this proved to be painfully true of all confidences in our relationship, he was stockpiling ammunition for use at a later date.  He would often condemn me in verbal tirades for those same things he would show so much sympathy for earlier.

The Real Victim

Eventually, he was able to twist my perception of certain events so that he would be portrayed as the victim, while I was always responsible for making him feel bad and playing the victim.

This happened so frequently and with such conviction on his part, that after my separation, I was actually surprised when someone I was talking to referred to me as a victim.  I didn’t even know how to respond. I almost denied what sounded to me like an accusation, but I didn’t say a word while I let the information sink in.

It took several months of counseling and reprocessing memories for me to understand that I was the actual victim in the relationship.  It would be even longer before I could equate my  experiences with what I considered ‘real victims’.  I had yet to learn exactly what psychological abuse was or how far reaching the effects were.  It was more than just living with someone who could manipulate my actions and rewrite memories, it was like being the test subject to a mad scientist who was rewiring my brain.

Separating Fact From Fiction

The first thing I had to do in order to begin healing was separate the realities of my marriage with the illusion of the life my ex-husband worked so hard to maintain.  That meant believing and accepting the fact that I was a victim.  This was difficult for me to digest.  I have always been sympathetic to other people who have experienced abuse, but for me to accept sympathy from others was a very uncomfortable feeling.  At first, I thought it would make me appear to be a weak character.  Someone who was seeking attention or causing drama.  All the things I avoided in my life, and all the things my ex-husband thrived on.

However, my thought process was innately flawed, mostly because of the picture my ex-husband painted of me for so many years.  There were so many characteristics of him that I didn’t like and wanted to free myself from, one of which was the recurring role of victim.  I was not rushing to take on that role, myself.

Once the understanding dawned, it was like I had opened my eyes after a long sleep.  I finally saw the truth: He was never the victim, I was.

That realization changed everything.  It empowered me to take back control of my life by validating my experiences, feelings, and struggles.  It connected me with other survivors.  And that is a key difference between the sociopathic victim role play and real victims, we recognize that the victimization is over, and we have survived.  My ex-husband needs to keep himself in the role of victim to suit his needs and perpetuate his manipulation.  He has no desire to move past that role, because it isn’t real.

From Victim to Survivor

Real victims of these empathy-lacking individuals are warriors, survivors, and eventually, healers.  We share our experiences and search for answers hoping to make sense of what we experienced.  We grow and change and thrive.  

Admitting I was a victim meant reclaiming my life.  I am not responsible for my ex-husband’s behavior, I am responsible for mine.   I cannot change how he lives his life and who he hurts, cheats, or manipulates along the way, but it will no longer be me.

Ironically, those initial traits he found so beneficial to his success as an abuser are the very traits that changed because of his abuse.  In my quest for peace and healing, the most rewarding part of my recovery is sharing my story with as many people as I can.  No longer embarrassed or shamed into silence, the experience freed my voice and my spirit.

My fifteen years of subtle manipulation and abuse gave me the incentive to figure out who he really was so I would never become a victim of anyone like him again. And, in the process, I learned that secrets are the abusers tools of control and manipulation.

Maybe he should have payed more attention to my ‘silly little interests’ during our marriage.  He was quick to belittle and minimize anything I enjoyed or anything others saw as a talent.  Unfortunately for him, topping the list is one I have turned into an extremely rewarding career choice: Writer.


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Dave, first things first. You need to take care of yourself. You need to get a job, get a decent car….do whatever you need to do to get back on your feet. There will come a time when you may be able to turn her in for welfare fraud. But if you can’t even afford an attorney, the courts are not on your side. She will make herself out to be the victim, and you will be in for the fight of your life.

Take your life back first. Then decide whether to cut your losses or to turn her in. It was very easy to turn my ex-spath in. It didn’t cost me anything except some sworn statements. But for some, justice is much more costly. Separate all of your accounts from hers so she can’t defraud you anymore, and document everything you have, in case you may ever be able to use it. Then use the rest of your energy to focus on yourself. I always get the sense reading your posts that you feel you cannot be alone, single, and by yourself. You can. And it’s not so bad. It’s infinitely better than being with a psychopath.


u know its funny, ross rosenberg talks about how NPD/ASPD/BPD are so hard to work with, but he and the others on his team, DO work with these ppl. if theyre beyond hope, like the spath, why?
why try at all? if they CANT see theyre sick, why do they even come? if theyre part of couples therapy, wudnt they refuse to come as theyre not sick (in their opinion)?
i thot one defining thing with PDs is that the person CAN NOT know they have the disorder they do have???
it has been my experience so far with the narc that he WILL NOT admit anything is wrong, and simply projects it back to me (extremely laughable)…even since ive left. so hes lost everything but wont see his own NASTY face in the psyche-mirror.
im assuming he CANT see his pathology.
ross rosenberg seems to feel these ppl can…


Dear ain’t: That’s a really good question. Some people are able to introspect. Others can’t seem to. Or is it that they don’t want to? I don’t know.


well cant or dont wanna…at that point, its a moot point, huh
i have a friend, a rly close friend, who recently i had to set my foot down with. i have VERY few friends too. but i have let this friend for a decade now cross my boundaries. i am done with this. i dont even feel bad. i felt angry and kept feeling angry at the point wen i did it, like for an hour after but i had to. i think thats pretty healthy of me. she has no right to treat me the way she does, she does it to family members also, and she’s just not going to anymore. at least to me. or i walk.
its kinda freeing.


Dear ain’t: In the past several years since the spath, I have let certain friends drift out of my life, cutting them off by simply not returning their calls – basically going NC without a lot of drama. I have a next door neighbor who used to violate my boundaries all the time. She would ALWAYS forget to take her shoes off on my carpet, and I was constantly nagging her to do it. Or we’d go to lunch and she’d be taking cell phone calls the whole time. Stuff like that. We hung out together a lot because we had a lot in common and also lived right next door to each other. Now we don’t even look at each other when we pass, but it’s not hostile, at least on my part. Fortunately for me, SHE was the one who initiated the NC. I turned her in for bringing her day care kids to the pool, 5 at a time. I’d mentioned to her many times how the pool noise disturbs my peace because I live right near the pool. Also, you are not supposed to bring more than 2 guests to the pool nor be doing daycare in the complex. So I asked the HOA management to just send her a warning letter. With that, she stopped speaking to me. Worked fine for me! I have to let another very narcissistic friend go last year, too. I just stopped returning her calls. Great not to have these issues with friends anymore. I tend to trust people easily, but I also am not afraid to cut off a friendship if it is causing too much grief.


Stargazer, this is such a healthy attitude! When my spath abandoned me, I really found out who my friends (and family) were. I had always been there for these people and when I wasn’t in a position to give, and would have appreciated a little support, they were were hateful, hurtful, or just gone. I’ve completely overhauled my attitude toward what constitutes a real friend. I’m long past wanting to talk about the experience to anyone, and I have one old “friend” who won’t get up to speed…she likes to email me and be patronizing and condescending and pump me for information. I have figured out responding with a very short and upbeat note doesn’t feed her so I’m hearing from her less and less. I’m cautiously making new, real friends.


There is nothing like a divorce to teach one who one’s true friends are!


You know, HanaleiMoon, I’ve gone through a tough time in the past year too with the death of my mother, some difficult relationships with men, and a friend’s betrayal. The friends who stepped up and offered support were people I never expected. Good to know who your friends are.


Aint, Ive worked in mental health and addiction for 16 years now. There are degrees of these disorders. I have seen some great progress achieved with people with Borderline personality disorders and that one can settle quite a lot with age too. The people with personality disorders that come to services for help tend to be a mixture of disorders and mental illness. Ive never seen someone with clear narcissistic PD or sociopathic disorders approach services for help unless they also have other things too or they have been forced to (by justice often).So given the degree of disorder, the motivation for change sometimes they are able to become better people.
Does that make sense?
Ive had 2 spath romantic partners and also a couple of bosses, they would not consider they had anything wrong with them. One partner went to therapy for a year or so and had a great time being affirmed, validated and felt sorry for. He didn’t want to change, only seem to want an excuse for behaving inhumanely…….


see this is wat i thot, but i have chosen to think of the narc i was with as unable to change cuz to be SURE i cant change him or any other living being ONE IOTA and he refuses to see (with the limited bit ive tried to show him) that he needs help.
this makes me vacillate tho.
this thot that he cud change. if he ever got that far to wanting to get help lol
meanwhile i keep getting me healthy. seeing me as worth a good life. not relating to others the way i have–even friends. and the world is seeming to start smiling back at me 🙂


The experts seem to agree that spaths know who and what they are; they just don’t CARE. They can supposedly pick out other spaths in a crowd. The very few who are coerced into therapy (usually by the courts)put on a fascade of seeming to be “cured” but it is all an act. This seems to be the general concensus among all the experts.

Often what disordered folks do with therapists is exactly what they do with others, try to perfect their manipulation. And having the validation of a therapist only secures them deeper into their manipulative mindset. Now, they can wreak havoc with a professional to vouch for the correctness of their behavior. If the therapist sees through them, they won’t be their therapist for very long.



My spath female neighbor is now playing the victim.

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