My sociopathic ex and I meet monthly with a psychologist. The Guardian ad litem for our three children ordered us to do this after my ex filed for full custody of our two boys last year. So we’ve met with this psychologist maybe 6 times now, and neither of us had ever met him before our first meeting. All he knew about us in advance is that we’re a “high conflict” couple, and he decided that the best thing he can do for our family is to help us get along.
He’s also trying to help us settle on an agreement that doesn’t entirely eliminate my parenting time or rights. And I appreciate that.
Therapy with a Sociopath
What’s it like? It’s not that bad, really, compared to all the other things I’ve endured with this particular sociopath over the years. Basically, we sit in two chairs facing each other with a little table between us. The psychologist sits off to the side and guides us. He makes us talk to each other and look directly at one another instead of at him, and we have to call each other by name instead of saying something like, “she always does that.”
It’s a good effort. And it helps to the degree that my ex wants to impress this man. What I mean is that my ex wants full custody of our boys—remember, that’s why we’re there. So he wants the psychologist to believe that he’s the most amazing, connected parent on earth. He wants to be seen as cooperative, value-driven, and stable. And so he jumps through just about any hoop the psychologist sets up for him.
The benefit to me is that the psychologist is setting up hoops to help us “get along.” And while my ex may work to undermine that possibility as much as he can between appointments, he does have to make some public efforts now to be agreeable. He does have to report back on whether he did what he was supposed to do. And so while he’s never going to not be who he is, I have to say that it’s been kind of nice to have him working so hard to please the professional.
It makes me want to stay under evaluation like this until our kids are all grown.
What Happens Between Sessions
Of course, there’s some falling off the wagon in our daily parenting life together—including lies and manipulation. But I’ve been connected to this sociopath for a couple decades now, so I’m not surprised anymore when he says one thing and does another. I’m not shocked when what he does between sessions is—to the greatest undetected degree possible—the opposite of really getting along. He over-involves our children (no boundaries) and continues to alienate them from me. They’ll come to me angry and say, “Why are you taking Dad to court?! Dad doesn’t even know why you have to keep doing this. He can’t even take us camping this summer—not even camping—because court is costing him so much money. Why do you always do this to Dad?! Why can’t you just leave him alone. Dad just wants to get along.”
I’ll remind you again here that my ex is the one filing all the motions. I’m there because I have to be—because if I don’t show up, he’ll eliminate me from our children’s lives entirely.
And there’s no talking truth in the midst of this chaos. Our children are so lost in the whirlwind of his words that it doesn’t matter what I say. If I try to correct them about who filed what, then we just circle around and around in a pointless argument over the facts. That’s an argument I can’t win, so I don’t try very often. What I generally do is look at their experiences from a bird’s-eye view. And I see kids who are lost and upset and who really want to live their own stable lives. Who really do want us to get along. Whose long-term psychological health depends on it.
And so I do everything in my power to reduce the conflict, keep it neutral, and make my heart calm in difficult moments.
That’s an exhausting daily exercise, given that sociopaths thrive on chaos and stir it up in every moment.
And that’s co-parenting as I know it.
Standing with a Sociopath
So I stand with my ex at our children’s events. I work on my internal boundaries because there’s never going to be an external divide. No clean finish. No end.
We’re raising children together.
And our children want to see us getting along. The professionals involved—including the psychologist I mentioned—want us to sit together at athletic banquets, and they want us to save seats for each other at games and events. This may be right and it may be wrong, but it’s one of the hoops they want us to jump through. So we’re doing it.
Let me just tell you, it’s really incredibly difficult to sit next to someone who believes that God wants “people like me” to be “wiped from the face of the earth.” I’m now sending photos of our kids from my phone to someone who has broken into my house and threatened my life. I’m chatting casually with a man who coaches our sons on all the ways I’m a disgusting, valueless woman. Who wants them to hate me, and who works every day behind the scenes to make that happen.
And who is so good at hiding it that no professional involved even thinks about making it stop.
Instead, they want us to sit together.
And so we do. I can see our kids appreciating it, and so I approach my ex with a deep, calm breath—amazed by my own human strength.
And I’m a victim of a sociopath.
Those things do go together.
Victims are not weak. We’re amazing. We focus on the needs of our children in a flawed system. We do what it takes to “get along.” We create peaceful moments in the face of chaos, and we put our shoulders back and take the next step.
Even when it means we have to stand by the sociopath. Day after day, year after year.
We do what it takes.
I’ve said this so many times………..I can’t, and I mean absolutely CAN NOT, imagine going through one of these nightmares but having the added factor of shared children with one of these monsters. My heart goes out to anyone who doesn’t have the luxury of being able to do 100% no contact because they HAVE to maintain some sort of contact for the children.
Beautifully said. Standing right there with you.
I stood by a psychopath for 30 years for the children. I at least had the sense to move a thousand miles away to limit that contact. I thought I was doing what was best for my children. I was never more wrong. The whole time I was protecting him from himself for the sake of the children,he was poisoning their minds against me like only a psychopath can do. You know what I mean, telling them lies and making them think it is the truth and their own thought. The grin and condemn someone else game.
Now my daughter has cut me out of her life and put him in. She is like a cult member, acts just like him to me and seems miserable. I am helpless to help her. My advice, do anything to get the psychopath to sign off on all parental rights. No father is better than a psychopath father.
So many times on lf, I see a phrase that neatly, concisely, describes my ex-husband. I am going to pinch your phrase “the grin and condemn someone else” game. That is HIM in a nutshell. It is his signature act when confronted by someone who is questioning his motives or behavior to say, “ME? With MY honest face?” and chuckle in such a way that people just capitulate, assuming that they MUST have it wrong.
My daughter has also cut me out of her life and is miserable, (but blames me for it). Years ago, she told ME that her dad/my ex had the ability to get people to do things that they would never do if they knew what his real motivation or plan was. I was SO happy, that she saw through him.
But… here’s the characteristic she shares with all his other dupes, she thinks she is too smart to be duped. She thinks she knows when he lies and when he’s being honest, and that he would NEVER be “that way” with her. She does not get that it’s ALL lies and he is NEVER honest.
It is true that she is VERY intelligent, but you’d never know it with some of the words out of her mouth. Her logic does not connect, the way she puts cause and effect together is NONSENSE. Like you said, she talks like she’s a cult member, that I need to examine why I refuse to take responsibility for abusing her, for manipulating her.
But my whole life, as an abused child, I have always took responsibility for everything. I am not avoidant, I am hyper-responsible. It’s one of the problems I have had to work on, to separate what I am accountable for and stop blaming myself for what others are accountable for.
Yet again, an abuser has pointed the finger of blame at me, and I can do nothing for my dearest beautiful daughter. Nothing but watch her be like him. Watching my baby sabotage herself while he stands there and smiles that smirky self satisfied grin is HELL.
NotWhatHeSaid: Look for a free clinic in your area, or ask the Domestic Abuse people, or your church about free or low cost health care.
Somebody above posted that, “sociopaths’ bodies don’t respond to stress the same way” that a normal person’s body would. I think it would be more accurate to say that sociopaths don’t experience much stress in their own lives, although they create plenty for other people. My ex could get stressed out when he was frustrated (about to miss a plane connection, etc.) but appeared to find the divorce and custody fight interesting and exciting. He enjoyed having a high-powered attorney (mostly paid for by his parents) at his beck and call, he enjoyed manipulating the court-appointed mediator, and the court-appointed psychologist, and he loved watching me fall apart. He knew that I was lying awake at night, fearful of the future, wondering whether I would end up with any custody at all, wondering how I could afford to live in the expensive area that he was claiming was the children’s “psychological home.” But one of the teachers at the small and exclusive private school that the children attended remarked to me on the difference between how the two of us were handling the divorce/custody situation: “Your husband doesn’t appear to experience any anxiety at all over the situation.”
To H G Beverly: How old are your children? My children were preschoolers at the time of the initial separation, and I often wished that they had been somewhat older at the time of the separation so that I would not have had to had so much contact with my ex. (He would call and say on the answering machine, “pick up the phone — there is an emergency.” Of course, there never was.) It was all pure manipulation. It took about four years before the end of the custody fight. Within weeks of the court finally awarding me primary custody, he and his new wife left the country, and the children had almost no contact with him during that time. Eventually, he reappeared, convinced a judge that I was the one who had cut him off from contact with the kids, and he re-established contact with the younger child. The older child refused to have much contact with him. She would accept money, and talk to him briefly, but did not want to be around him.
A couple of people have mentioned getting court-ordered psych evaluations on the ex at the beginning of the court case. My ex was ordered to take special tests to help determine if he was a pedophile. He passed the tests. A few years later, his next wife told me that he had gone to a local university medical library, impersonated a psychologist/psychiatrist, checked out books that described in detail what to look for in answers to the test questions (some of the tests required you to draw pictures, etc.) and he studied the books about the test(s) he was going to have to take for WEEKS before he actually took the tests. I wouldn’t put too much faith in psychological evaluations.
Just prior to announcing his intention to divorce me, my ex insisted that we go to marriage counseling, without telling me that he had already decided to divorce me. He told the marriage counselor that we didn’t have time to do the MRI tests at her office — that we would fill them out at home and mail them in. So we filled them out at home, and he mailed them AFTER making a copy of my responses to the questions. After he told me that he was divorcing me, I wanted to drop out of counseling, but the marriage counselor said that if I dropped out, it would look to the court as if I didn’t care about the children. So I had to continue visiting a counselor that I felt had stabbed me in the back by pretending that I was in marriage counseling while my ex was actually using the process to try to collect “evidence” that he should get full custody.
To Taralav: Pick a new screen name, and don’t give out any personal information when you post, such as that your husband works at Enterprise Rent-a-car. It’s OK to slightly disguise the facts of your situation by changing the dates of significant events, etc. No one here will consider that dishonest at all. Be thankful that you never had children with this guy. Once you make a clean break with him and go “no contact” you should make rapid progress in rebuilding a new life for yourself. It’s the people with minor children who get stuck in a quagmire.
A couple of people have mentioned telling friends & family about how the sociopath has abused you prior to leaving him, so that you get your story out before the sociopath has a chance to slander you. I would advise caution. Once you ring a bell, it cannot be unrung, and 90% of people cannot keep a secret. You do NOT want the sociopath finding out that you are leaving through the gossip of other people.
Also, some people just can’t resist the urge to try to “save a marriage” by telling the soon-to-be ex that he needs to treat you better and appreciate you more, or he is going to lose you. People who have never had an up-close-and-personal experience with a sociopath think that their own experience of going through “marital ups and downs” has some relevance to your situation, when, in fact, there is no comparison at all.
People who are very close to you will probably already know that there is something wrong with your husband from their own encounters with him. For example, my sister was shocked by my ex’s callousness and flippancy when discussing his own father’s health issues.
People who don’t know either of you all that well should not be dragged into the fray. People who are in your “inner circle” who choose to believe your ex’s lies rather than your truth will simply have to be dropped by you. This is really painful, but unavoidable.
If I had things to do over again, I might have made an effort to speak to my former brother-in-law during the very early days of the divorce. If I had done so, I think that he would have believed me, and he might have been able to dissuade my ex’s parents from funding a custody war.
I had a great Easter this year, for the first time in a long time. Even though neither of my two adult children made it out to the little church in the country, a lot of my other relatives did and we had a wonderful time. After years of financial problems, legal problems, custody problems, unemployment, etc., things are going very well for me. There were so many years when I wondered if things would ever be normal for me again, and I am so thankful for a fresh start in life. My prayers go out on behalf of all of you who are still trudging through a very dark valley at this point in your lives. There is a future for you. God bless you all. This website has been such a help to me.
The no contact option has worked so far for me. This includes not seeing my ex either. I know this is a year away, but my daughter graduates next year from high school. It is a small school, small class size, only 8 graduates. I’m nervous about being in the same room as her father.
I’ve avoided going to her volleyball games as I know he will be there. I’ve attempted to go before but find myself scouring the parking lot looking for his car.
My ex is in denial of what he has done to me and our oldest son. My son struggles with anger toward his dad for the abuse and his dads denial. His dad still talks negative about me to the kids and my son is sick of it. (son is 21 now and in the Army) Daughter is 18 and drives. She spends one week at his house and one week at mine. Back and forth. This was hers and her dads idea. Her dad tried to get out of paying child support on our last legal battle, so since he was pulling this, I gave him responsibilities to take care of. We, my husband and I, cover medical, dental, cell phone, school tuition, books, matriculation fee and necessities while in our home. He is to pay everything else. He gave her a car he already had, he covers insurance, gas, repairs, wrecks, clothes, other school fees, and other stuff. Our chunk is still huge as ours is concrete, his is abstract and subjective. He still plays it very cautiously about what he pays for. I just wish she could see it. Of course he blames me for his financial troubles-I get blamed for all his problems.
We had three court battles and he lost all three. He tried to accuse me of child abuse, being unfit to parent, so then he coaxed our son to live with him so he wouldn’t have to pay child support, we each had a child to care for and support. Ex sent our son to a cultish boarding school and tried to pass it off as medical and force me to pay half of it. He lost. He accuses me oflying on the bench and that the judge felt sorry for me. She is a very wise woman and could see for herself the evidence. It was not known at the time, but my son was made a ward of another state and on Medicade for his medical. (medical was the only thing we split in absence of child support) My son said that was the worst thing he ever did was go live with his dad as it was hades on earth.
It is hard to see him or hear his voice for me. I don’t want to let my daughter down but I dread her graduation and futuristic her wedding. Any advice would be appreciated.