Sociopaths keep changing their demands, keeping you in turmoil

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?

Lovefraud first published this story on July 1, 2013.

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19 Comments on "Sociopaths keep changing their demands, keeping you in turmoil"

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Every personality disordered person I have ever known has done this. I think this gives them one more way of being in control. Because, based on their changing desires, we respond to make it happen; or we have a strong reaction of some other sort. So, in a sense, they are in control of us if we respond to these moving ‘goals’.

Psychologically all manipulation is about controlling the environment. In my experience no one tries to control everything around them more than someone with a personality disorder. It is their nature. And they do it every second of every day. It is a driving force in them.

Mine did this, too. No matter how or what I did (literally bending over backwards), to please him..it was NEVER enough, it was wrong..if I gave him A, he wanted B..and on and on..you CANT PLEASE THESE PEOPLE. It is a sick game they play, to keep you CRAZY..and until you catch on (in time)..they WILL continue to play with YOUR mind. Its about CONTROL.

First, I would like to comment that, when I was growing up, I was a nervous wreck coming home from school, as I had no idea what kind of mood my mother was in when I came in the front door.

Second, since there was no opportunity to comment on “Parental Alienation,” (announcing a webinar class), that we have to address sociopathic parent(s) may pit children against one another, in an attempt to keep the entire family off balance.

Yes, “moving the goal posts” was exactly what the sociopath who was in my family did. She was one of the beneficiaries of my parents’ estate, and I was the person responsible for settling everything.

I carried out my fiduciary responsibilities to my parents and their estate, and bent-over-backwards trying to accommodate the disordered beneficiary. However, she was constantly “moving the goal posts” and making life a living hell for me.

There is no doubt that this disordered human being was fully aware of exactly what she was doing. Her goal ultimately was to win by destroying me.

Well, it has been almost 4 years now since I got everything settled in my parents’ estate and I released the sociopath from my life.

Anyone who has been on the path to freedom from a sociopath has truly been on a warriors’ journey!!!!!

My sociopath couldn’t decide whether to keep me or let me go. Her primary “mask” was that of a devout virgin christian based on her so-called “best friend”.

She was 17 at the time and I had just turned 21.

From the time we got together, she put me on a calling schedule. I was only allowed to call her on Tuesdays and Thursdays for one hour. However, she would call me whenever she felt like it.

We would only have one date per week and it would last about 2 1/2 hours on a Friday. I later discovered that she spent the rest of the time hanging out with friends (and most likely other guys) and doing whatever she felt like.

I imagine I was kept on a strict schedule so that she could keep tabs on me while she played the field.

During phone calls she would say things like “we’re unequally yoked. You’re not a Christian and I am. We’re not meant to be together.” She would drill that in week after week. Oddly enough, she would also end the conversation by setting up the next date or next phone call. So on the one hand, I wasn’t good enough to have a future with, but it was ok to keep dating.

On one particular occasion, I hadn’t spent time with her in a few weeks because she was doing her final exams to graduate high school. She said: “No, that wouldn’t be a good idea. It just wouldn’t.”

No further explanation.

A week later she called me nonstop to go out.

For the first six months we held hands everywhere we went. She initiated that on our first date. Then one night she dropped my hand and said we would no longer hold hands because it’s “PDA” (public display of affection). I’d never heard of that and my heart sank when it happened.

The same night she wanted to go to a coffee shop and asked what I would be having. I told her I don’t drink coffee but I would just hang out while she drank. She threw a fit and told me that “we are incompatible” (because I don’t drink coffee).

Really interesting question. Happened to me constantly. I used to think it was because he had all these lies in his head and wasn’t sure what he demanded of whom. But now I think it was a test of my devotion. “Is she still under my control? Let’s find out…”
I do agree it kept me off balance, so maybe that is their ultimate goal. But my sp was kind of a parrot. If he heard that a coworker’s wife made the best meatloaf, he’d ask for meatloaf. Then say he hated meatloaf, and put me down for making it. I passed the test. Lucky me!

You know, I think the meatloaf type thing happens because they have no real sense of self, and are constantly trying on aspects of other people’s personalities. I do feel sorry for sociopaths, in a way. They never asked to be afflicted by these severe personality disorders.

A snake cannot help being a snake — it was just born like that, or created by its parents, if you think nurture as well as nature forms these monsters. How awful to live in such a shallow world, where you never really experience love or true joy. And to not even know who you are, well it is kind of tragic.

Zoe, I think you touched on an important aspect, and perhaps why we stay with them? Even though my SP could be a really mean @$$, most of the time he wasnt. Even in the discarding period, when i knew he was cheating, he seemed sad he had to spend time to ‘recruit another one’ rather than actually looking forward to it. Maybe I’m rationalizing, but on the scale of crappy behavior, mine seemed milder than most stories I’ve read here. Still unhealthy, still addictive, still demeaning, but not as violent. He wanted what everyone around him had, tried on their words, their look, their behavior, their hobbies. But alas, everyone leaves. Part of me does feel sorry for him but a much bigger part of me is glad he’s gone. I can’t fix him. I accept that.

Shescomeundone, I definitely believe there is a spectrum of psychopathy/sociopathy, and while some seem violent others largely do not. In my case, like someone in one of Sandra Brown’s articles, I “graduated” from my marriage to a Malignant Narcissist, maybe a sociopath light, if you will, to being in a relationship with a criminal with previous convictions of mainly white collar crimes, but there was a gun involved in one incident, and extortion by physical force in another.

But as you said, even the worst one, whom I will call ‘Anthony’, was charming most of the time, had 500 “friends” on Facebook, and could have made a mint of money in sales if theft by deception was not so lucrative for him. He was truly that charismatic, when he wanted to be, but would become intense and angry when he did not get his way, and had that characteristic “sociopath stare”.

I remember once sitting at a bar with him, and he was actually paying me back a very small percentage of what he had originally “borrowed”. He was so full of rage, that without even raising his voice much he had me shaken to the core. He told me menacingly that I had “no idea what [he was] capable of.” And I am sure that he was correct. After he left the bartender asked me if I was okay even though the conversation was relatively quiet.

I really want him to be put away for his crimes even though I have not had him criminally charged for what he did to me. I would rather live in peace, and well, just LIVE, because I do believe that under certain circumstances psychopaths are capable of absolutely anything. And part of me feels like a coward for not coming forward to the police, but I have seen how victims are sometimes treated (including me as an abused wife. It sucks, but the courts do not always achieve justice.

I just hope the state does not blow his case and let him off. As Donna said once, the courts do not seem to care that much about crimes against women that do not involve serious physical harm. And if you are well connected, sometimes the case just gets dismissed on some technicality. Unfortunately, the legal system is still an “old boys network” and despite #MeToo, or maybe even as a backlash, the patriarchy is still protecting it’s own.

In regards to what they are capable of, I feel the following statement my sp made sums it up well. I was still letting him live off me for a few weeks because I wouldn’t want to throw anyone out in the cold because I am human. I cried one night saying I am scared of what he might do to me during these final days. He responded that he wouldn’t risk going to prison. Not that he was incapable of such action or would never hurt someone. But that the possible legal risk was too great in his mind. Occasionally I feel sorry for him knowing his life will be one con after another. But then I feel much more sorry for all the past and future victims/survivors. And really there is nothing to feel sorry for the sp about because they will never feel hurt or shame for what they are. Thanks for the discussion lovefraud survivors:) being able to share with all of you has made my recovery easier.

They DO borrow the identities of those they come in contact with. They borrow our hopes and dreams, or fave books, or our love of cheese. Anything that they can use to glue together a persona is up for grabs. One of the spaths I dated has a strong online presence. I have gotten onto his blog and read stuff that is directly lifted from my life, and re-purposed for his facade.

It is interesting if you can watch them from a distance. You can see that they are always role-playing. There is no authentic, grounded, foundational personality. It is all acting–like a father, a lover, a generous helper, a spiritual leader, a president, a concerned friend. They are all roles that they piece together from getting close enough to other people, watching TV, reading books, anywhere really.

I think that is why they sometimes get it terribly wrong, and we experience WTF moments with them. I think, if they are not really intelligent, that they just don’t know when they are off the mark and that the person they are pretending to be isn’t being consistent.

So much of what y’all say is ringing true.
Zoe, is the “sociopath stare” the one where he’s totally void behind it? I saw that often and it’s CREEPY. No soul.
Slim, my spath was not very intelligent so I had many wtf moments when he wasn’t getting it quite right. He would hear confusion in my voice, change the subject, and rant how everyone was jealous of him. Then came the control full force by setting all new rules to assert his dominance. Those were the worst when I questioned him, he moved that goal post to another flippin field!

The “sociopathic stare” is supposed to be a hallmark of a personality disordered person with Cluster B tendencies. It is menacing and reptilian, as I experienced it, a foreboding of what might happen if you do not make this person happy. Some say it is to establish dominance, but I found it plain threatening, and it had its desired effect.

My simple request for the return of funds ‘Anthony’ had borrowed, an interaction that takes place every day among rational people. When he persisted in his excuses and delays as to why he could not return my funds, I told him that I would have to “take steps” to ensure their return. I believe that I was supposed to be frightened away, and to some extent, I was.

But I also knew that I was entitled, legally and morally, to get my money back from him. Because he had used a variation on his real name, my Google searches did not immediately turn up evidence of his prior convictions. When I saw one of his mug shots for the first time, I felt like my internal organs were in the grip of a vice. The emotional wrench of this discovery was actually physically painful. This person was supposedly my beloved. Who was he really? Was our relationship just a lie, a long con?

The dawning of these revelations ebbed and flowed depending on each new tack the sociopath took to secure my affections and my money. The sad part for me is that he really did not have to offer much for me to succumb to his charms, and I remain very disappointed in myself, a city-girl who was taught not to trust anyone blindly.

The look let me know how easily it would be for him to annihilate me, the look of a lion just before he eats the zebra. And yet, when the charm turned back on, I could not quite access my rightful impulse to flee. And I came back. Sigh.

Their “love of cheese”? You too, huh? Sottocenere is the best cheese on the planet, but many, many others are right up there, for me.

Just kidding. I agree with everything that you wrote. It is all an act, one that they are constantly trying to refine. Persona, reputation, and public opinion are all that are important to them.

And I believe that they must have some kind of inner risk calculus that they use to decide how far that they are willing to go. ‘Anthony’ had already spent a few years in prison, but insisted to me that he was a minor player forced to take the fall for a larger group of individuals. Inexplicably, fear of going back to prison did not keep him from repeatedly re-offending.

His cover story did not pass the WTF test even as he spoke the words, and was a less plausible lie than if he had taken responsibility for his crimes and feigned redemption. I just kept saying, “Why the f *@k would you do that?”

He said he had joined a motorcycle club, and they had made him take the fall for their misdeeds. ‘Anthony’ even claimed that the alleged victims had initially made a lot of money from their dealings with the MC, and only went to the cops when the market turned south. Simply unbelievable, on so many fronts.

And yet, I do feel sorry for psychopaths, despite the fact that they do not feel that their lives are empty, or care about the fate of their victims at all, only because they had NO CHOICE in becoming psychologically disordered.

Don’t get me wrong, I have much more empathy for the victims, and the helpless family members (especially offspring) who are abused over and over, and may even inherit those terrible traits and genetic dysfunction.

I also wish that courts and prisons used psychopathy as a factor in sentencing and parole equations, like Canada does. The public truly needs to be better protected from these monsters, and the legal system is not cutting it. Still, there but for the grace of God go I, in my opinion.

One time I threatened to call the cops if he didn’t leave my house. More than threatened because I was already dialing, bUT he did leave, so i hung up. Going to prison was the only thing that openly scared him. I mean it should scare anyone. But he was less than a year away from his retirement and he would lose everything if he were arrested because he worked for the city.

they do this.

I also have sympathy and compassion for these types. They didn’t ask to be mentally ill. But my sympathy is only from a distance, more toward the entire group of disordered people, and isn’t really directed toward any individual. On an individual level, when I see the misdeeds and devastation, I feel mostly disgust and anger. I still get twinges of wanting revenge even. I don’t act on them, but I do fantasize that he will get punished.

I know they can ‘control’ themselves when it serves them. But my sense of it (as I have a narcissistic mother) is that they cannot do this every minute of every day. They are what they are, and in the long run they continue to abuse. And I think the higher they are in the spectrum of their disorder the more impossible it becomes for them to behave.

I don’t have sympathy for these types. My sympathy is always with the victim.

they do this a great deal.

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