Every week, a chapter of my book, “Husband, Liar, Sociopath: How He Lied, Why I Fell For It & The Painful Lessons Learned” (available via Amazon.com, just click on the title or book cover) will be published here on Lovefraud. To read prior chapters, please see the links at the bottom of the post.
Chapter 3: Sociopath Math
I can almost hear the collective cacophony. “Onna! That can’t be the whole story. There has to be something more to it. There are always two sides.”
In an attempt to be fair and to give everyone involved the benefit of the doubt, we tend to discount and dismiss malicious, destructive behavior. Sociopaths count on this. Contrary to the popular saying, there are not always two valid sides to any story (and it would not surprise me if it was a sociopath who first planted this idea in our collective unconscious). Are there two sides to the story of Bernie Madoff’s multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme? Does the heart-breaking story of Laci Peterson and her unborn son’s 2002 Christmas-time murder at the hands of her philandering husband Scott have two sides? What about the conviction of ex-policeman Drew Peterson for murdering his third wife—are there two sides to that story? (His fourth wife has been missing since 2007.) It is critical to realize that there does not have to be more to the story of Paul and Jenny—not if Paul is a sociopath.
Since we have empathy and a conscience, it is almost impossible for us to imagine that there are people, like Paul, who are devoid of both. Yet, there are—lots of them. To help silence those voices in your head that want to give Paul a legitimate side to the story, I would like to give you a crash course in what I call sociopath math.
Although simplistic, I’m guessing we make tradeoffs and choices when we balance our needs against the needs of others by some implicit mental math: We compare the importance of a person to us and the importance of their needs to the importance of our needs. As a result, sometimes we will compromise our needs in favor of someone else’s, and at other times we will allow our needs to trump those of another person. But a sociopath does not and cannot care about other people, so the importance of any other person to the sociopath is always zero (unless the sociopath is valuing the other person as part of a long-term manipulation). Let that simmer in your mind for a moment. Since a sociopath always values every other person at zero, the sociopath’s need, no matter how small, always trumps the other person’s need, no matter how big. It does not matter if that other person is the sociopath’s child, parent, spouse, sibling, or a total stranger. Of course, a sociopath does not act like this at first, because his initial priority is to lure you into developing a relationship—one that can be leveraged for his gain.
For Paul, his need for a wife to be a built-in maid, cook, errand runner, dog watcher, and source of sex trumped Jenny’s need to lay a solid educational and financial foundation for her future. As a sociopath, Paul never gave her needs or her future a second thought. It was always only about how Paul could use Jenny to serve his needs. End of story. There are no two-sides to this story, no footnotes needed. No happy ending possible for Jenny, me, Paul’s new wife, or any of his future targets.
Speaking of footnotes, the sports car Paul took from his first marriage is likely also a manifestation of sociopath math. I am not suggesting that the purchase of a hot sports car is a sign that someone might be a sociopath. However, for Paul to have purchased a sports car at that point in his life suggests warped priorities, the kind associated with a selfish, stimulation-seeking, status-hungry sociopath. Why on earth would a man with no savings, an entry-level job, and a wife in college with prohibitive student loans choose an expensive sports car as the family car? Wouldn’t the money saved on a more practical car have been better spent on the education of the woman he “loved,” who gave up her free Stanford education and relocated across the country to be his wife?
It would have been helpful if I had investigated and determined the truth about Paul and Jenny’s relationship earlier, because it contained multiple early warning signs. Why did Paul get Jenny to marry so young? Why did he get her to give up so much (a free Stanford education) to become his wife? If they were destined to be together, why not wait to get married after Jenny graduated? Why did Paul not make any tradeoffs so he and Jenny could be together? Who really suffered disproportionately by their short marriage?
Unfortunately, what I did not have was the knowledge that every woman needs to be vigilant for signs the man with whom she is falling in love might be a sociopath. Paul exhibited many signs that only now do I realize are relevant: a sense of instant compatibility; someone clearly interested in being in charge or being in control; a life-story that elicited “pity”; emotional isolation of a partner even, ostensibly, for valid reasons (i.e., Jenny’s emotional isolation as Paul’s wife); short relationships; lack of fear or strain in situations most others find stressful (e.g., a rigorous graduate program that did not faze Paul); and selfish behavior (the sports car, getting Jenny to give up her Stanford education). A dangerous constellation was already starting to form, but I didn’t know about sociopaths. The water was receding from the beach, but I certainly did not know the warning signs. It never occurred to me that a feeling of instant compatibility with an attractive, smart fellow Yale MBA candidate who was comfortable taking the lead and who seemed calm when others were stressed could be warning signs of anything dark and malevolent. It seemed more like a dream come true.
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Identifying names, places, events, characteristics, etc. that I discuss here and in my book have been altered to protect the identity of everyone involved.