Sociopaths and their changing demands

When you’re dealing with sociopaths, figuring out what they really want is nearly impossible. Why? Because they keep changing what they want.

When my ex-husband, James Montgomery, moved into my house, I agreed to convert my basement, which I used as a small gym, into an office for him. I put away my gym equipment. I hired builders to install more electric outlets to run his array of computers, televisions and business equipment, which required enclosing the lower part of the walls. Making the improvements, and installing a small bathroom downstairs, cost me $6,000. (He promised to pay me back, but of course he never did.

When Montgomery first moved into the office, he was delighted.

When we had an argument, he complained about being forced to work out of a dark, dank cellar.

Then, when he was trying to butter me up, he was pleased that “Nuffles” (one of his pet names for me) made such a nice office for him.

Later, as our marriage was falling apart, he again bitterly complained about his deplorable working conditions.

Did Montgomery like the office, or not? I have no idea. The whole issue illustrates how sociopaths will say anything, even directly contradicting themselves, depending on their agenda at the moment.

Moving the goal posts

Many Lovefraud readers have described another, more insidious manifestation of changing sociopathic demands the phenomenon of continuously “moving the goal posts.” Here’s how this works:

Sociopaths tell you what they want, which we’ll call “A.” You give them “A” except now they want “B.”  You give them “B,” but now they want “C.” This can continue for “D,” “E” and “F.” In fact, it can continue through the entire alphabet, and then through the entire Greek alphabet. Each time, sociopaths insist that this will make them happy.

One target of a sociopath used a different metaphor to describe this behavior “moving the line in the sand.” This person said:

Moving the line in the sand is  a red flag.  It serves many purposes.  It damages the target.  But it also grooms, tests and weakens the target.  Plus, the target  commits and gets deeper and deeper to recoup the loss (remember we talked about  recouping the loss.)   Because it is used to test the target, I think it is an important red flag to look out for.

The target finds himself/herself tolerating more and more and doing more and more and the spath does less and less and  needs/wants /implicitly demands/expects more and more.  Sometimes its from an overt agreement, sometimes its  from implicit agreements that the line gets moved.

Off balance

What happens to you as they keep changing the rules? You are totally off balance. You can’t figure out how to treat them, or how to be around them, because you keep getting mixed signals.

Sociopaths then make matters worse by demeaning you for not doing what they want. You try to explain that you did what they wanted previously, but now they want something different. The sociopaths vociferously deny that they ever told you anything different, and insist that they always wanted what they recently demanded and that you misunderstood them.

Sociopaths are so convincing that you begin to wonder if you did, indeed, misunderstand them, and if you’re losing your mind.

Moving the goal posts is a form of gaslighting. It messes with your sense of reality.

Empty inside

Why do sociopaths do this? Why do they keep moving the goal posts?

I think the main reason is that sociopaths are not fully formed human beings they’re empty shells. They have no core personality, no inner fiber, no guiding purpose. Their desires are not based on stable objectives, but passing fancies. They make demands according to whatever they feel like doing in the moment,

Plus they get bored easily. As soon as they tire of one form of entertainment, they want another.

A key question is, do sociopaths do this intentionally? Given that some sociopaths actively try to crush their targets, I certainly think it’s possible.

What do you think? Did you experience sociopaths who kept moving the goal posts? If so, were they clueless or doing it in purpose?


Comment on this article

81 Comments on "Sociopaths and their changing demands"

Notify of

Thanks for your advice Divorced from Gaslighter.

I have ‘fixed’ myself for my father so many times, when nothing was broken, only to be torn down that I am very tired of ’fixing’ myself and just want to grow old in peace. ‘Fixing’ myself to please my dad and never being good enough, thus I posted under Sociopaths and Their Changing Demands, so he could further destroy my spirit has kept me too busy for real opportunities for advancement or when found he would insist I ‘fix’ myself out of them, hence I am poor.

In my defence, I have ’fixed’ myself to the maximum of my capabilities of what is available to work with in my situation now.

I am a professional volunteer and I do have a part time job as a Drop in Worker, Peer Support Worker and WRAP workshop facilitator. Have countless certificates of gratitude for my volunteer work and thus a pretty good resume but nobody hires with Rob Ford pulling the funding for the type of work I do, shall lose my part time work. Therefore, because rent is steep in Toronto, I have only two options. To live out my old age here amongst the crack addicts or go into the beautifully located partially subsidized Lithuanian senior’s building because rent in Toronto is steep. Here I am respected yet most unhappy and uncomfortable with my surroundings, there it shall be the flip side and I am not sure if my mental health can take being shunned in the community.

In the community where I now live, due to cheap rent, I am known for my volunteer work / advocacy and can hold my head up high. But this community is extremely rough around the edges and not a pleasant community where one can look forward to enjoy aging gracefully. The reputation of this community may also have helped my father’s rumors in recent years. During my advocacy work I have been in the local papers, Toronto Star and Toronto Sun many times with my community mentioned and my full name. When my name is googled these articles come up, archived back to 2006 and yes in retrospect that March my father died, and no the articles are not about prostitution.

The idea of having to explain myself, after having been accepted by the Canadian community, is debilitating to say the least. People from my past have spread the rumor that my father purchased a house for me and that rumor of having a ‘rich’ father has spread in this very poor community and yes people wonder what happened to me to be here. The world really is a small place. What one says about their past does not make the rumors go away.

I hope that someday one of my relatives some way somehow comes across my two posts as I never had the opportunity to explain my side to any of them because my father made sure I was never in contact long enough to find out about his lies and thus dispell the image they had of me created by those lies. The PTSD is beyond extreme in that direction, to the point of poor communicaton skills… blubbering / blabbering, shutting down and thus I seem crazy. My PTSD elicts the ‘fix’ yourself advice. Not so in this known for its poverty, halfway houses, refugees and shelters Canadian community.

I attempted to connect with my niece on Facebook in Germany, whom I have never met, and the rumors have gone that deep. Think my father Sidney somehow also got to my German relatives because money really does make a difference in how much one can convince others. Or maybe money is more important and the community where one lives cancels out the good work one does.

Perhaps the newspaper articles could even hurt my chances of moving into a very different ‘class’ of community, although my appearance is clean, conservative and pleasant, lacking in tatoos or any other stigmatizing outward appearance.


I agree with Divorced from Gaslighter – get the apartment and the heck with what anybody else thinks of you. You have been through ENOUGH. To anyone who even mentions that you were a prostitute, tell them the truth (not that you owe anyone an explanation), that your sperm donor (he doesn’t deserve to be called a father) was pathological liar (and worst) who spread lies about you – he was a psychopath, stirring up evil the whole time he was on this earth. If people want to know the truth about you, then, go ahead and share it. You’ve got nothing to hide, unlike, the spaths that roam this earth. Your sperm donor just spread chaos and destruction in your life – you deserve to be happy, free of his tentacles.

Hello bluejay.

You are right.

‘Not that I owe anyone an explanation’, I like that way of thinking.

Thank You,

Canuck – your story has many, many parallels to my story with the spath mother I had. Wow – so sorry for all you / we / all of us have been through. My current family on my mother’s side believes all kinds of evil about me. My first cousin lives in the same town and I’ve never met his daughter and only met his sons once almost 20 years ago. I have a job which requires a security clearance, so how could I possibly have done jail time or been as you say a prostitute or addicted to hard core drugs. How could “normal people” believe any of it ?? I know – I’m among people here who completely understand. So sorry you lost the love of your life Dave and I struggle with being 58 years old and not being able to change my life history.

As far as the topic of do they mean to do the things they do – absolutely. My mother would occasionally for no reason give away all my clothes and tell the Good Will donation center that her daughter had died. Then she would tell her church buddies that I had thrown out all my clothes – what an ungrateful daughter I was. She did crap like that whenever she was bored. Deliberately just to get something going.

She also once said to me that I was the person in her life that she could do whatever she wanted and that I just had to take it. She said it was up to me to find my “whipping person.” Yuk.

I don’t even know how to list all the deliberate things that went on and all the lies and all the manipulations. I do know that the phrase, “I’ll be happy when ____” was a daily complaint from her. When I was 19 years old, having been sabotaged about college and going to a nearby small college and living at home, I decided to try for one whole year to do everything she wanted, except for deviant activities. At the end of the year, she was still the same bottomless pit, needing entertainment and money and attention every second of every day. That was when my mind broke free and her opinion no longer mattered. I was still in her world and it took me another 8 years to walk away and when I did it was permanent. I love, love, love the analogy of “empty shell.” That was absolutely her. That explains so many things to me.

When she died in 2003, I received some of the weirdest, offensive “sympathy cards” where total strangers stated how spath mother had “shared” with them all her “disappointments” in her children. Really – how about being “disappointed” that I was starved, abused, beaten, lied about. But “normal people” would never believe me, so I burned all those cards. The truth is I paid for my own college, I paid for my own wedding, and she embezzled funds from me, while claiming I wrote “hot checks.”

A crazy making thing she did to my brother was to deliberately break him up with the love of his life. Trashed her completely and she went back to Arizona. Then the spath mother did a 180 and made big friends with Arizona dream girl, inviting her to visit and saying that my brother dumped her for a party life style. And of course all the lies being told without my brother having any idea what was happening. So very sad and frustrating.

I appreciate the post above that said when doing horrible things, spaths get pleasure from it, while the rest of us decent folks would be sick doing those things. Spaths really are a different breed of human – a different way of being human on the planet.

I appreciate all the lucid writing and understanding that I have gained on this site. I would be lost, lost without it. It is a Godsend. Thank you.

Wow OpalRose. We have so very much in common!

I also am so very sorry about the life your mother put you through and totally hear you when you say sorry for all you /we / everyone has been through.

‘I struggle with being 58 years old and not being able to change my life history.’ resonates strongly. When you were a little girl bet you never imagined life could turn out like this. Where is the sense and the meaning? Why?

I will be 60 come December and feel like my life has been a total waste because of a lack of any reference point other than the ‘father knows best’ teachings.

If reincarnation were possible I would have children next time around, but even my pets were abused by their ‘grandfather’. Therefore many normal human undertakings I knew it would be best to avoid got bypassed in this life. Not having had children is my greatest regret.

I really really struggle with my life history and it is difficult not to feel resentment toward the dead, as bluejay calls it, sperm donar.

People cannot fathom how ‘sacred’ parents are capable of such evil and that is when we are excruciatingly hurt again. We become doubly abused by those who have no comprehension that we did nothing to deserve the cruelty, so we suffer in silence.

When a woman was abused by her spouse people totally get it but when it is a parent nobody wants to hear it as it affects their sensibilities. Yet the damage done, when one is young and escape is impossible, is so much more debilitating.

The old teachings of honour thy father and mother must be rewritten.

If the evil ones would have just killed us at one fell swoop it would have been much more merciful to us, I do not try to speak for others but I feel the pain was unnecessarily drawn out and that is torture. There is prison for murder but no consequences for the murder of what should have been a life lived, which in my humble opinion is just as evil if not more so.

I am allergic to the evil ones. My body goes into high alert uncomfortable and PTSD really kicks in so badly that I am unable to act any other way than crazy, when I am in the presence of someone who is a potential danger. That individual can be the nicest person and have nothing obvious that would be considered a red flag yet if I get involved I find that the warning was spot on. I have learned not to ignore my senses although the PTSD usually puts them off me anyway. Do you also have that allergy OpalRose? I have often wondered if it is common for people abused from childhood.

There are so many similarities in our stories that it is uncanny. OpalRose I thank you so very much for sharing.

I thank the others who took the time to respond. Thank you for some excellent points to ponder….

Canuck – everything you say above – everything – is absolutely right on !! As a little girl, I knew what I wanted – children, a good job (I wanted to be a librarian), a pretty little household – very simple things. The older I got, the more the spath mother sought to destroy all my dreams and make me her exclusive slave – not that total devotion to her fixed anything anyway.

My greatest sadness too is that I didn’t have children. There is a part of me that knows they would not have been safe around her family and so perhaps it’s bitter-sweet. But still, if I had understood the situation the way I do now, there may have been paths to take that would have included safety and children. I am so sorry we share that grief.

Thank you for sharing about the fateful phone call to your father. There is no way you could have known the evil heinous behavior that would follow. I have worked on coming to a place of understanding about my making choices that turned out badly. There was no way, no way, no way that I could have known the depth of busy evil she was capable of.

I love the “allergic reaction” to evil – brilliant !! Yes – I am allergic now too. Sometimes it takes me a little while to recognize what my hyperventilation is about – but then I see it and I run the other way. Yes – I babble in the presence of evil – but that’s my intuition knowing that any interaction with them is nonsense anyway.

And I have been financially destitute in my life as well. No roof over my head, no decent food to eat, no job. For months at a time. I know that so well. And it makes no sense for survivors of abuse to have to live that way. But I think that is part of what spaths do – strip us of needed resources that no one in their right mind would ever, ever do to a family member.

Every time I thought through what was going on, trying to figure out spath mother, the truth was always much, much worse than my wildest dreams. I think that is because the extreme of “normal” doesn’t even come close to the reality of evil and disordered people.

Finally, I struggle with meaning and feeling like my life is wasted in terms of normal history, normal needs, normal wants (like having children). I do know that I have learned such priceless lessons and I hope, hope, hope that means something.

See what you think of this article – it has helped me.


If the link does not work – try searching on “The 180 degree rule” and looking for the “Precious Pearl of Purity” article.

I wish you all the best – let us know how you are doing. I am not a regular poster, but feel my support for your journey even if I do not post often.

Wow a true female Spath.

I can read the devastation in your story;I am so sorry!Take Divorced from Gaslighter’s advice!I live in a secured apt complex for senior citizens/disabled citizens.I am disabled.Does the apt complex have a “service coordinator”?! It’s a fairly new job here in the U.S.The service coordinator is very helpful in helping tenants get the help they need with disability,insurance,food programs,etc.It’s like having an advocate in the same building!Don’t worry about neighbors~~~enjoy your apt,attend activities & meet your neighbors and decide if you want to associate with them or not~~~there’s nothing in the lease that says you have to associate with them if they make you uncomfortable!

No joy, No passion, No pleasure. Nothing in life gave the latespath any pleasure nor did he appreciate anything: accomplishments, accolades, abilities, not even material possessions.

He had no real ambitions. He lived in terms of fantasies. With his intelligence nothing was impossible. With his lack of work ethic everything was impossible.

He always liked/had sports cars; he turned everyone in to a rolling garbage scow.

He loved to drive, even took multi day racing courses; when he got his license pulled for failing to register, inspect, insure his car, rather than sorting out the situation he choose never to drive again.

He wanted to go to law school; after graduation he worked for less than 5 1/2 years out of 28.

He said he wasn’t happy being ‘labeled a lawyer’; rather than get a subsequent degree, he chose unemployment.

His words:’I might have loved the wife, but that was decades ago”; I pleaded for a divorce, instead of being free and having a chance of happiness, he insisted on a relationship and made everyone miserable.

He wanted a work space in the basement, the furniture is still in the garage, still packed, 20 years later.

When he graduated law school, he wanted to ‘dress like a lawyer’ so over his first few weeks working he bought himself 10 suits in some of the best stores in NYC; he would come from work and leave the clothes strewn all over the floor, not caring about walking into work dressed as ‘wrinkle-man’.

Instead of being a productive member of society, he chose to be a criminal. I do not believe that anyone who was committing serious crimes like he was, could face the people he was destroying, for 5 years and 3 months, only to take further advantage of them; unless they were a sociopath.

He bought things and did things that society as a whole may ‘want’. I don’t believe he understood what it meant to want something himself.

Nothing could ever satisfy him, because there was never the understanding of true satisfaction.

I believe that latespath could feel frustration. Some people find retail therapy a good cure for frustration. Perhaps spaths believe that as well. New things equal feel better but that does not work for them.

Strangely enough, I believe that his ability to successfully commit crimes, to live multiple lives, to be lionized in the sub-world, gave him the most satisfaction of his life. But even then he wanted more; he needed to break the norms of the pay for play world and be praised for it.

Hi lost:

I find myself wondering over the last couple of years if “dissatisfaction” actually brings this type of person the only form of satisfaction they can achieve? I know from what I have read, that they love negative energy instead of positive, so maybe being miserable causing misery to others is the only thing that makes them feel good.

I have had two days of no contact. Even though the firecrackers (my town allows three day permits!) affect my PTSD, it is usually cool for this region right now, and I am looking forward to going outside and looking at the stars in the middle of the night after they have all gone to bed. So, some peace is resuming for me because I have my rent and I am not having to play nursemaid, mommy, laundress, and housekeeper right now. I can watch old movies and relax. I wish it could always be like this.

A person imbibing in multiple addictive and destructive habits can never be peaceful. I am happy to just eat my sandwich, watch a movie and wait to watch the stars later.

I guess I am just saying that sociopaths must really enjoy the awful things they do and say. And according to what I’ve been reading, they can define and deeply understand what they put us through, but they do not feel it so even if there is a fight about it, it never affect them. They are truly content, and often happy, with the negative attention they received.

Wow Ladies. It breaks my heart to read what you’ve all been through. I consider myself lucky that my experience with the ex-spath was fairly short 3.5 years, although it did result in a child and he has pretty much disrupted my life on a continuous basis since. But I had a decent foundation, albeit not the best as my father was a callous alcoholic, but as long as I steered clear of him, life could be calm a lot of the time. I can’t imagine going through what you’ve been through…and to still be paying for their ‘evil’ even long after they’re gone. 🙁

Kudos to you ladies! You are heroes in my eyes. Remember the saying ‘Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind’. Forget about those people who judge you without even knowing you or having a clue what you’ve been through. Excuse my french, but f*ck them! You don’t need people like that in your lives.

Sending you all big virtual *HUGS*…and I know you don’t think it’s possible but I pray that you all find happiness eventually…God knows you deserve it.

SS – thank you for the hugs – and well wishes – they mean so much. Hugs back to you dear.

Divorced from Gaslighter


One of my therapists was a Christian pastor who grew up in a dysfunctional home. He said that it was his opinion that “honor your mother and father” meant living a life of integrity, so that any normal parent would be proud of you. (The fact that your disturbed parents don’t appreciate you can’t be helped.) My advice, which you can take or leave: Don’t blame God for other people’s dodgy theology. Also be aware that your relationship with your father on earth affects your ability to conceptualize a Father in heaven. Your father has messed you up in many ways, by being selfish, evil, deceitful, manipulative, etc., etc. God doesn’t expect you to candy coat the situation and pretend that everything was OK when clearly things were about as bad as they could have been.

In my own family, many members of my extended family don’t really understand what my childhood was like, or what my father was really like. My mother and sister are still living, and they choose to have only sunny memories of the past. My sister was the family favorite of the three children, so she was protected to a large degree from the pathology of my father. In my extended family, a few people have indicated to me that they realized that things were bad for me, but the whole subject is pretty much shoved under the rug. I’m slowly learning to accept that I don’t really need any sort of validation from the rest of my family. My memories may not be 100% accurate, but I know what I know.

I also have a lot of deep regrets about how my life has turned out. Nearly all of my cousins have had marriages that have lasted twenty to twenty-five years or more. My two children are doing well, but to some extent they blame me for their own unhappy childhoods. To some extent, I could have done a better job of raising them, but I was dealing with the insanity of having an ex-husband who did everything possible to destroy my life after the divorce.

When I was in high school, and tried to talk to a couple of different adults in my life about the craziness at home, they blew me off by telling me that “these are the best years of your life” or by saying something to the effect that whatever was going on, “deep down inside, your parents love you with all their hearts.” I think it is very, very difficult for people who had pretty good childhoods to understand how bad things can be for other people. Some of them can understand that life can be bad on the wrong side of the tracks, especially if you are a minority, but for a lot of people, if you lived in a large house in a leafy suburb, and your parents were married and employed, then they just don’t see how there could have been any problems of a serious nature. My parents were very presentable in public, the craziness took place in the privacy of our home.

I hope that you do go forward with moving to the Lithuanian apartment complex near the park. It sounds so nice compared to your description of your current home and surroundings. I think that you will be deeply sorry if you let the opportunity go by. You can always move back to the ‘hood, but a chance to LEAVE the ‘hood doesn’t happen often. Take the opportunity that is presenting itself. (Ha! This sounds like a fortune cookie!)

Very few people have more than two or three true friends. It sounds as though you have at least that many already. Even if it takes you a while to fit in at the new place, being in a neighborhood where you can walk around outside without being mugged will be great for your physical and mental health.

I’m packing boxes myself right now, although I’m not sure exactly where I am headed. But I’m pretty sure that it is time for me to move on sometime in the next six months or so.

Very best wishes to you!

“What happens to you as they keep changing the rules? You are totally off balance. You can’t figure out how to treat them, or how to be around them, because you keep getting mixed signals.”

Exactly. This was my experience as well. I gag as I read Donna’s account of the basement office and how Montgomery reacted, constantly shifting his feelings about it. My mantra is “G-d, if I’d only known.” But once again I have to say, “They choose well.” They have the mental apparatus to determine a victim almost at first glance, certainly after a couple of sentences. Even a woman (or man) who is not wired or nurtured to fall for a socio might be cajoled by one, but it wouldn’t last long. If he acted like Montgomery did about the basement office, she’d boot his a** out!! This truly fires me up as I would have done the same thing Donna did. Love knows no bounds for some of us.

I noticed the contradictory nature of the path in my life the first time I met him during an interview, no less, actually afterwards as he walked me out of the bldg. He became very silent as we walked to the elevator, which I thought was kind of strange after being so friendly and forthcoming, so I made some comment or other and he nearly bit my head off.

A few min later, he said something flirtatious and wildly inappropriate for someone in his position to an interviewee and possible employee. I was so shocked, on some level, I was unable to believe it.

On the way out of the place, after making a face and saying “Smarmy!” out loud, I noted that he was a cheat and that I didn’t respect or trust him. That was the very first time we met. I am SO sorry I went to work there. I never thought in a million years things would get out of hand. I have always had a thing about authority and had just finished being undermined by management at my job of 20 yrs. in corporate America as they threw us all out, one after the other, protecting their buddies and getting rid of the rest of us. I was both vulnerable as well as mistrustful of management at that time.

I was perfect, just perfect fodder for him, so vulnerable, even tho distrustful, as he knew just how to get under my skin by being essentially the ying to my yang, then pull the carpet out from under me whenever he felt like it. He was one big contradiction and I allowed it because he told me stories of his personal and work “stress” and how he was just in a fog…. Poor baby. Had I known better, I would have told him to have his pants sewn shut for starters. Thankfully, I never got that close to him. THANK HEAVENS! I believe he got into trouble before he could get me into trouble…

There is nothing that would make me feel badly for him. Absolutely nothing, sick or not. He is just plain dirt. He had a choice and decided to just play with and tease me like a clueless kitten and I allowed it, also knowing better myself. I am no less guilty or despicable for having allowed his smarm and sleaze into my life and reacting to it as I did.


Send this to a friend