By | May 12, 2016 25 Comments

Subtle Sociopath “Tells”– Lacking Empathy Even When You’re Ill

Husband Liar Sociopath

By O.N. Ward

Every week, a chapter of my book, “Husband, Liar, Sociopath: How He Lied, Why I Fell For It & The Painful Lessons Learned” (available via, 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 5: Make Your Own Damn Sandwich!

I did not extrapolate or act upon these seemingly small moments of dissonance, but I had a friend who did exactly that in one of her relationships. Her decision to trust her instincts and to generalize from one small selfish act to what married life with her fiancé would be like may have saved her from a disastrous marriage, perhaps to a sociopath, and the resulting emotional and financial carnage. Carol called off her marriage to “Mr. Right” because of a sandwich.

Carol was getting her PhD in psychology at Yale when I met her at the squash courts. We became squash partners and fast friends. Carol was smart, motivated, kind, outgoing, upbeat, and gorgeous. She was so gorgeous, in fact, that one day when we finished playing squash, we walked off the court and saw a man staring at us—actually, at Carol. Carol asked him why he was looking at her, and he replied that he had to find out if she was really as beautiful as his friend said she was.

“Well?” Carol asked in her strong, sexy, confident southern accent.

“You are,” the stranger replied, and then turned and left.

Carol was clearly a “catch,” and she had come very close to marrying handsome, rich, well-connected “Mr. Right—”the son of a congressman from an established, wealthy Texas family.

One day, before she came to Yale, Carol was not feeling well and was lying on the couch, amidst sniffles, cough drops, and tissues. Her fiancé chose that moment to ask her to make him a sandwich.

“If someone’s going to expect me to make him a sandwich when I’m the one who’s sick, and he just wants to be waited on, well, that’s that,” Carol told me. In that moment, she knew she was going to end the engagement, and she did.

I remember being shocked by the story. Ending an engagement over who was going to make a sandwich? Maybe he wasn’t feeling well. Maybe he didn’t realize how sick she was. Maybe he just forgot she was sick. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. But maybe not. Maybe Carol was right. Maybe there was no excuse for her fiancé asking her to make him a sandwich when she was the one who was ill. None! It was a red flag, signaling inherent selfishness, entitlement, and perhaps a lack of empathy. It was a sociopath math moment—a rare gift, a deal breaker. Despite the lost money and dashed egos resulting from bringing plans for a big Texas wedding to a screeching halt, Carol ended their engagement, and she had no regrets.

At the time Carol told me the story, I was so thoroughly committed to making excuses for this kind of selfish behavior that I was sympathetic to her fiancé’s point of view. I thought that perhaps she was a bit narcissistic and selfish or didn’t have the big picture in mind. There are two sides to every story, right? Wrong. Carol was right; I was naïve. Carol was wise. She went on to marry someone else, because she knew that even who makes a sandwich is important. I went on to have a horrible, twenty-year marriage to a sociopath that almost destroyed me.

With Paul, I brushed off the “Could you make me a sandwich?” moments, excused them away, and then forged ahead. In fact, I even patted myself on the back for being understanding, flexible, and giving Paul the benefit of the doubt—things my family had always encouraged me to do for people when I was growing up.

Paul and I got the flu over the Christmas break. He got it first, so he was starting to feel better by the time New Year’s Eve rolled around. I was still exhausted, so we decided to stay in and have a quiet evening, punctuating the New Year with a champagne toast. Even when I am feeling well, I am not a night owl, so by 10:30, I was fighting sleep and losing badly. I knew I could not stay awake until midnight. I was sure Paul would understand.

“I can’t believe it,” Paul said, making no attempt to camouflage his cutting tone. Then, shifting to his velvety voice, which distracted me from the content of his words, he continued, “Who can’t stay up ”˜til midnight on New Year’s? I love New Year’s Eve. It’s soooo romantic. Why don’t you just make some coffee? I really want to ring in the New Year together.”

“Paul,” I said, “I’m so tired.”

“Onna,” Paul replied in a caring, gentle tone, eyes in full “puppy dog” mode, “a few weeks ago, Brian invited us to a New Year’s party. I know I told you. Anyway, I told him the other day we couldn’t come, because you might still be sick. If you really were too sick to stay up, it would’ve been nice for you to let me know. At least I could’ve gone to Brian’s.”

I have a very good memory for concepts (like being invited to a party), although not for details (like the address of the party), and I had no memory of Paul telling me that we were invited to Brian’s party, much less that he might want to go. Brian and Paul were hardly close friends. It seemed odd, but I assumed Paul’s story was correct. Why wouldn’t it be? Perhaps I had not committed the invitation to memory or could not recall it in my foggy state.

In all likelihood, Paul’s story about Brian’s party was not true. More likely, the story contained a kernel of truth—that Paul had heard Brian was having a party—but that we had not been invited or that Paul had not wanted to go. What was true was that Paul had just “gaslighted” me.

Named after the Oscar-winning 1944 film Gaslight, about a sociopath’s nearly successful attempt to drive his young wife mad in order to gain control of her estate, gaslighting is a technique used to cause the target to question her memories, her perceptions, and her grip on reality. As a result, the gaslighted person loses self-confidence, feels vulnerable, and even feels guilty about doing things she never did. This guilt puts the victim in the gaslighter’s “debt.” If gaslighted consistently over time, the victim’s confidence wanes, and she relinquishes increasing control over her life as she relies more and more on her trusted partner—the sociopath who is purposely manipulating and eroding her sense of self. It is brilliant, because it works. If you have never watched the movie Gaslight, now would be a perfect time to do so.

Caught off-guard and exhausted, at first I did not know what to think about Paul’s apparent selfishness. But my need to be nice, to eliminate conflict, and to understand the other person’s point of view (all wonderful qualities when dealing with normal people but profound vulnerabilities when dealing with a sociopath) told me exactly what to do—make excuses for Paul. Maybe he was looking forward to sharing our first New Year’s Eve together so much that he was just disappointed. Maybe he did not realize how tired I actually was. Maybe he loved me so much that he could not imagine celebrating New Year’s Eve without me. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. Feeling guilty (as he must have intended), I made coffee, struggled to stay awake, and shared a New Year’s champagne toast with Paul before collapsing into bed.

In actuality, this was something else altogether: a red flag, although a subtle one. Paul’s behavior reflected a complete lack of empathy for me. Even though I was physically and emotionally spent, Paul demanded that I prop myself up with caffeine so as not to disappoint him. He didn’t even offer to make the coffee! Someone who really cared about me would have been sympathetic to how I felt and maybe offered to make me a cup of chamomile tea and tuck me in with a gentle kiss on my forehead. Paul did exactly the opposite. Paul’s trivial need to have me with him as the clock struck twelve on New Year’s Eve trumped my health and fatigue. Sociopath math—remember.


Start from the beginning:

Chapter 1


Go to previous chapter:

Chapter 4


Go to next chapter:

Chapter 6



Identifying names, places, events, characteristics, etc. that I discuss here and in my book have been altered to protect the identity of everyone involved.


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Hope Springs

Ah, those subtle red flags.

Great post.


Thanks for sharing the New Year’s Eve story. The same scenario happened to me. He had the flu first then I got it from him. He recovered enough to go to a big party New Year’s Eve. He had refused every plan I had made ahead of time but when I was sick suddenly he was “bored” and left the house early evening and stayed out all night. His attitude was exactly like you said. Condescending with contempt mixed in.

Most of the time over the years I felt numb & confused. A nightmare. Thanks for sharing your story.


I felt this example of a ‘tell’ demonstrated the reaction of someone with NPD rather than sociopathy, though of course there is significant overlap.

My experience with my psychopathic husband was actually the opposite; if I were ill he would be excessively attentive and would refuse to let me do anything; even get out of bed to get a cup of tea! Sounds sweet and caring, right? As long as I played the part of the incapable dependent invalid, and he the caring husband, then it was fine! If I got out of bed to get something for myself, I would be treated with subtle contempt, and made to feel ungrateful and that I had done something wrong.

Of course, towards the end there were times when I was ill and it didn’t even appear to register to him, which made me feel like I wasn’t even worth the bother. So either way, I felt like I was doing something wrong.

What is possibly even more telling in his behaviour was when HE was sick – he wouldn’t let anyone take care of him no matter how ill he was. Once he fell off his bicycle on the road and needed to go to the hospital. After eventually agreeing to let me take him there, he insisted that I do not stay and to go home.

Essentially the behaviour was two sides of the same coin; control. Forcing my dependence on him, ensuring he has absolutely no dependence on me.

I think when it comes to thinking about a psychopath/sociopath and wading through the confusion of their behaviour, it’s important to remember that they are the simplest creatures in the world as they consist of only 3 things; no empathy, anger, and obsession with control. This manifests in numerous ways depending on what particular mask they wear. Are they the strong, successful, confident sociopath? Are they a sweet, gentle, seemingly meek psychopath? The false personas are endless. But those three factors are always, always there. If nothing else, they are consistent!

Fascinating beasts, aren’t they?


Yes, yes, and yes. I sometimes think I might be just crazy in thinking that my ex is a sociopath/narcissist, but then I remember the little tells, such as a lack of empathy, and I know that I am correct. Here are the subtle tells of his selfishness and lack of empathy that I will talk about today:

1) At the beginning of the relationship, my N/S was always thoughtful and considerate of me. I had never known someone to be so invested in me and what I was thinking/feeling. Anytime he even remotely sensed that I was upset, he would immediately ask what was wrong and take steps to remedy the situation or he would just listen, or whatever he thought I needed to hear at the time (and man was he good). However, after the mask was wearing off (after I moved in with him), things changed. Whenever I would verbalize that I was upset or that something was wrong, he would respond with “Me too.” My once concerned boyfriend who would write a ton over text message or call me if something was going on, resorted to just saying: “Me too.” I called him out on it several times, but of course he kept doing it. Or if I would mention that I didn’t feel well or if I was talking about something he didn’t want to talk about, he would interrupt me with “Oh, my stomach hurts.” He said this so often, I told him to keep a food journal so that he could figure out what was causing an upset stomach, but of course he didn’t listen and I shook it off. Then, I said to him again later on (after the relationship ended and when we were just “friends”) “You should really see a doctor or keep a food journal because I feel like everytime we see each other you tell me your stomach hurts.” When I said this, he got super irritated and angry and he snapped back that his stomach didn’t always hurt. I realized later (once I realized he was an N/S/P), that this was just a tactic to turn the attention back to him because he never cared what I had to say and he knew I would turn the attention on him because I’m an empath and wanted to be considerate of his stomach issues.

2) During the devaluation stage, I was experiencing chest pain a bunch and in the midst of getting checked out, I found out that I have a bicuspid aortic valve (two valves, instead of three). I basically had to BEG him and convince him to go with me to the heart doctor to confirm this abnormality, and I essentially bribed him with saying that I would buy him lunch if he went with me. OMG. Thinking back on this. Why should I have to CONVINCE my “loving” boyfriend to go to the doctor with me? Especially with such an important health concern! (Side note: He used to make me coffee every morning and that is when I started having the chest pain. I remember having this weird thought that he could have been poisoning me. Man was my subconscious trying to tell me that something was off with him).

3) Part of the reason I didn’t break up with him when the mask came off (because I was aware of it – I used to journal that he was a completely different person and that I felt that everything in his life was more important than me and that his actions were not aligning with his words and that something was “off”), was because I am an empath and he admitted to me that he suffered from “depression.” I made excuses (and so did his friends and mom) for him for treating me like shit and freaking out on me all the time. Instead of it being because he was an ass, I was thinking, oh no, he’s depressed, and I know mental illness is a real thing. I felt I dropped everything going on in my life to be there for him (which is EXACTLY what he wanted). He used to get mad at me that I wasn’t being there “enough” for him, that I didn’t read this article on depression, I wasn’t giving him space when he needed it, etc. But I was doing everything I could. I was reading up on it, having phone calls with his mom (his enabler), and some of his friends. I told him that if he needed space, to let me know and I would go to my own thing (which I actually WANTED to do anyway, but he ALWAYS wanted to be together). He had NO problem telling me that I made everything worse for him (by asking him questions – like why did you just give me the silent treatment? What have I done wrong for you to be so irritable with me, etc – and we all know that once the idealization stage wears off, us empaths think the change in them towards us IS because of something that WE did, and of course we want to fix it). It was SO easy for him to turn the tables on me. Anyway, at the beginning of the relationship, I told him I had some problems and I thought I had PTSD (from childhood and an abusive relationship I was in before him). Well I was diagnosed a year into the relationship, and yet when I asked him to read things on PTSD he said he would, but never did. Or he would say he knew everything there was to know about PTSD and so he didn’t need to read anymore. Which was such a LIE, especially because – I have PTSD and I didn’t even know EVERYTHING there was to know about it. He also told me that he was worried because PTSD was a “lifetime” disorder, and he was basically insinuating that it wasn’t his place to have to put up with it. He told me that his depression was different because it wasn’t directed at me (yea, ok), and that my PTSD was directed at him. But during our relationship, i was never mean, I never made him to be the bad guy; sure I had my triggers (like, hey I know you aren’t cheating, but when you go silent for a second or not tell me about girls you meet, this sends me into a frenzy), and I always explained them calmly, and told them where they came from and I always apologized and felt horrible that I had to bring up these concerns. When I told him that the silent treatment, and him being mean to me, made my PTSD worse, he said “You can’t put that on me” – and yet, all he said to me during his depression was that it was my fault and that I was making him worse, etc. Fucking hypocrite.

4) I grew up very poor, but I wanted to get an education. I am currently getting my PhD, but while we were together, I was taking time off and working in NYC. Well because I was poor, I have a TON of student loans (also because I was in a financially (and otherwise) abusive relationship, in which I racked up more debt to help put that ex through school/ pay for his car/ for our entire apartment, etc) and so I needed to work TWO (actually three) jobs to pay for rent and my student loans. There were two weeks close to when we were breaking up that I had a project due for my second job and I was REALLY stressed because I had been working NON-STOP for a while. I was sitting on my bed and he was with me, watching TV, not doing anything, while I was working. I was always doing things for him: doing the dishes, cleaning, doing our laundry, running errands, etc (he typically made breakfast and dinner though), and I rarely, if ever, asked for him to do extra things for me. In this instance, because I was working and he wasn’t doing anything, I playfully was like: Can you cater to me for once and make us some snacks? I said it sweetly and in a way that I would be genuinely grateful if he would do that, since I was working after a full day of other work and he wasn’t doing anything at all. Well, he gave me the DEATH STARE and didn’t say anything so I got up and made them for us.

These are just a few of the instances in which he exhibited NO empathy and just complete selfishness. Gosh, thinking about my involvement with him makes me want to throw up. It’s been a little over two months of no contact and I feel better and better each day. He actually texted me two days ago and because I know WHAT he is (I didn’t the first time we broke no contact – well at least I didn’t want to believe it and I was caught believing everything in the relationship was MY fault; which is what he also told me when we met up the first time after the break up (that it was my fault and that “I hurt him”! :/), I didn’t respond and I didn’t even want to respond. I am so proud and happy! I know what he is and I will NEVER allow him back into my life. He is only reaching out because whoever else he met isn’t putting up with his shit or giving him enough admiration and he is trying to see if I will still give him attention. Ha! Nope.

Hope Springs

What a great post iHATEhim.

Isn’t it almost unbelievable when you do discover that a person you love is a SP? You often have to look back and string everything together. Maybe you ALWAYS have to do that. I certainly did with my own son. All of a sudden, it becomes glaringly obvious.

I love at the end of your post where you say ‘I know what he is and I will NEVER allow him back into my life’. You understand!

It is the only way forward. No contact.

Thank you for sharing.


Right? It does incredibly suck to come to that realization. But it is necessary. I would have kept on loving him. But knowing that I loved someone that never even existed has really helped. And you’re right – when you look back, it does become “glaringly obvious.” It really really does. Once the fog has lifted, you see the little games, the ways in which they never actually cared about you, the ways they manipulated you, etc. It is truly an eye-opening experience. We have been broken up for almost a year, then we had three months of no contact, and then we sort of dated (meaning he used me and treated me like shit) for about three more months and now we are in no contact again (except for that text from him that I ignored). Right now, there are so many times when things pop into my head, that I now see as manipulation or “tells” -things that I ignored previously, especially since for the longest time, I believed in and thought he was the person he pretended to be at the beginning of the relationship. Well no more! I cannot wait until he no longer enters my mind at all, but I think this is an imperative process and its keeping me angry, which is good. Cannot wait to change my name on here from “iHATEhim” to “Hedoesntmatter” or something to the effect that I am completely indifferent to him. He doesn’t even deserve my hate as far as I’m concerned.

NO CONTACT! I cannot stress it enough. It has literally changed my life – my anxiety is slowly disappearing (he was the CAUSE OF IT) and I feel happier and happier the more i am away from him.

Hope Springs

Oh, you are so wise…and wonderful!

Knowing that you loved someone that never existed…OMG…never were truer words said.

My own son is a SP and it is the hardest thing ever. Unlike your ex’s mother, I will not enable him to keep being a fraud. I do not sanction his personality nor his behavior and I would be doing that if I stay in his life.

He ruined his marriage to a lovely girl by projecting something that he wasn’t…and unfortunately there are two young children now, that he had no business having. He is torturing his ex by using the children. It is beyond horrible.

You have the answer. NO CONTACT. I also have the same answer.


Aww thank you! It’s taken a LONG time to get here.

Yea, it’s unfortunate to have to arrive at that truth, but it has definitely set me free as well.

Aww, I bet. I think he does a really good job about keeping up his mask, and I think he is might be a narcissist, rather than a sociopath, but who knows, and the only reason why I would say that is because he truly appears to value his parents’ opinions and he adores his mom. I think that it stems from the fact that she gives so much adoration and love. She excuses all his bad behavior and I’m sure her and his family vilified me near the end and they saw me as the issue and not him.

What were some of the first signs that you noticed in terms of your son being a SP? My ex always used to freak out and run away (literally run) and come back a few hours after he calmed down. He also always freaked out about stuff and I remember telling her that he yelled at me over nothing and I was just trying to have a conversation with him. She told me that that was “just who he was” and that he just needed to be consoled (basically coddled) and of course, he was never taught that this was an inappropriate way to deal with stress, nor was his lack of empathy and his anger any concern of hers.

It must be awful to be a mother of someone like that, but at least you know it and I’m sure you know it has nothing to do with you and its a good thing you are not enabling him! Good thing he is out of your life!

Hope Springs

You know, these personality disorder ‘names’ can be confusing as hell. Narcissist…sociopath…psychopath…

The personality traits can also overlap so it is difficult to pin a ‘name’ or specific diagnosis down.

When my son was born, the birth was traumatic (hours and hours with no progress and then finally violent forceps because I am small….probably should have had a C-section…anyway), and I don’t know if that has anything at all to do with ‘things’ or not, but it was a very harsh birth. He was off from day one. No feeding instinct at all. Like he did not want to thrive. Finally, after he would not breastfeed, the nurses ‘force fed’ him. Of course, he would scream and gargle and choke. It was awful. It actually looked like abuse! We were told to wake him and feed him every four hours, like that. Great start for the kid, huh?

Time went on and he was NEVER happy. Always whining. Never smiling. Hated to eat. Hated any rules. Hated moving or walking any where, even to the car. Hated anything physical. Seemed to have no love or empathy for us or any one whatsoever. Hurt animals…even killed a hamster. Stole things from peoples’ yards on the way home from school 1 so I had to start taking him to and from. Mentally toyed with his teachers (actually made one cry in grade 1!). Preferred to be alone in his room rather than with us and would whine and act up until we couldn’t stand it so that we would put him in there, where he would proceed to play, what sounded like, happily. As long as the door was shut anyway. At age 6 he lied to a teacher/daycare worker about being molested by his father, my husband. We sent him to a psychologist after that because after the police were done investigating my husband and cleared him, we were positive that someone else must have molested him. I mean, why would a child say that out of the blue, right? The psychologist informed us that he had never been molested and that he may be a sociopath! We were certainly not expecting anything like that. A ‘diagnosis’ of any kind. It was the mid 80s and we were young and there was no internet. We had no idea what that even meant. On we went.

When he was almost 8, we put him into care. Yes, we did. We tried to get other family members to take him for awhile, and my own father did for about 2 months, could not handle him, and then he said that we should think about foster care! It was hell for us and almost ruined our marriage because I wanted to and my husband didn’t. I knew in my heart that it was the best thing for all of us. Not only did our son not love us at all, but I was starting to feel the same way about him, and frankly, it was killing me. I was anorexic by this time…perhaps to try and gain some control in my life where I felt that I had none. My family was falling apart.

He went into care effortlessly (he was not sad nor did he miss us at all according to his foster ‘mom’ who I talked to every month. He acted the same way there, stealing, starting fires, hijacking the family to do any activities by always being ‘grounded’ in his room. He was also diagnosed a SP while with that family), to a wonderful family who he thankfully stayed with until he was 16. He then moved out on his own, with help from Alberta social services. We reentered his life, forgetting all about the SP diagnosis, or not knowing what it meant anyway.

Fast forward to now. He is like a false person. A fake. A fraud. He led us to believe that he had changed when we got back together. We believed it. We only saw him occasionally and only for short periods of time because we lived in different provinces (Canada) so we did not really SEE who he still was. All he ever seemed to want was money from us. He only contacted us when he needed something. And, my husband gave it out of guilt. For a long long time.

He is 35 now and going through this nasty split with a really nice girl. Using the poor children as pawns, of course, as he would. They had two kids and this girl believed in him. He has failed her miserably because he is not who he projected to be. Of course, we saw it all happening, but because we did not live close, we hoped for the best and stayed out of it. We were still not sure about what a SP was. Well, since this split, I have researched and strung everything together.

What am I to do? Yes, I am his mother, but what is my responsibility any more? I am not on his side. He is harming the children. He thinks he is right about everything and jusat keeps barreling through. He has ‘ruined’ yet another family. I am beyond finished. He must be out of my life. It is the only way. I do not agree with him on any level, for he is a false person. There is no trust or truth. Only lies and deceit. I do not believe ANYTHING he says. If his mouth is open, he is lying.

How is anyone supposed to accept and live with that in their lives?

Hope Springs

Oh, btw, my son and his soon to be ex went to counselling together before they split up. It did not work, of course. He thinks he is right about everything all of the time.

He continued to see this counselor on his own, and guess what? She diagnosed him with a personality disorder.

Go figure. Three f***ing times. I can’t be in denial. It is real.

Bev – I am so sorry for what you endured. Your description of him growing up highlights the basic problem with sociopaths/psychopaths – they do not have the ability to love. This is demonstrated by your son’s preference to be by himself as a child, rather than with his family. I’m afraid he is a textbook case.

You are right to eliminate him from your life. You did what you could. He is an adult now. There’s nothing more you can do, except protect yourself.

Hope Springs

Thank you Donna. I always appreciate and value what you say so much.

Thank goodness for you and this site that you have given us.

I know what is right in that I feel happier and more contact in life the longer that I have no contact with my son. Before, I was dying inside, or at least that is the only way that I can describe it.

It is tragic, but it is the truth. That is all that I can live. Truth.


Wow! Wow! Wow! He definitely sounds like a textbook sociopath. I cannot imagine dealing with that without the internet. I was only able to move past this relationship after being able to diagnose my ex from reading just about every article on the internet about narcissistic and sociopathic relationships. I can’t imagine what I would have done without it.

This site is also wonderful! I find that my friends really just DO NOT GET IT. They think I’m overreacting or dwelling on the past, but they don’t get how important it is to understand the relationship for what it was. Only after I have come to terms with it and seen the little pieces of his behavior for what they were, do I think I’ll be able to completely move on.

I am much stronger now too and I will be vigilant for these signs in the future. I just hope I can learn to trust again. But I think the first step is learning to trust my own instincts and hopefully I’ll also be able to call of relationships for things as simple as asking them to make me a sandwich when I’m sick.

Hope Springs

I know!

It is a huge problem regarding friends and family and I have quickly learned to just keep it all to myself. The only person who knows is my own mother. Others either likely think that I can’t ‘forgive and forget’ or that I am ‘off’ myself. Even my own husband says that he probably won’t hurt us THAT bad again, and that he was only 6…I want to tear my hair out if I hear that one more time. My husband views that incident as almost trivial. Just something a young child ‘might do’. Even though, at the time, my husband was devastated. Questioned by the police. It almost tore us apart. I was going to leave him because I thought he was a freaking child molester! He cried and begged me not to believe our own son and to stay. Thank goodness everything worked out in the end in that he was totally cleared, before I decided to leave with my son. Jesus…where would I be now??

Unfortunately that lie that blew our family apart was a red flag that we did not realize the impact of.

Hope Springs

Sorry…to clarify, my husband views that incident as almost trivial, NOW. Not when it happened, I can tell you. It was like walking around in a nightmare for weeks for both of us. We were like zombies…

He wants me to forget about it so that maybe one day I can have a relationship with my son again.

I know that I cannot. Ever,

Hope Springs

When something is SCREAMING out at us that it is WRONG…


Why do we question ourselves so much.


Right? I know for myself I had so much self-doubt. Especially because going in I knew I had PTSD and I would react to things that I should not react to. So I ended up chalking up the bad stuff to either a false alarm or that it was my fault. This inability to trust my instincts (and then him also making me feel crazy near the end of it with the crazymaking) made it so that I did not see those red flags or completely ignored them. :/

Hope Springs


We go get to thinking that maybe it’s us. Maybe we aren’t really seeing what we’re seeing.

But, we are empathetic humans, so I say let’s give ourselves a break. We deserve the benefit of the ‘doubt’ literally.



Haha we really do!! And at least these are actually good and endearing qualities, that with the right partner will actually help me maintain a healthy and considerate relationship. I just need to find someone who is healthy, considerate, and who has the ability to be empathetic. I feel like the ability to have empathy (as long as it is coupled w/having the ability to generate and enforce boundaries) is a really really important feature to have when developing true and genuine human connections with others.


Bev and Ihatehim,
This is a great forum to discuss the ugly truth. We need a place to go and tell our stories/”nightmare”. When the initial shock of what you are dealing with wears off and the fog lifts the truth comes pouring in, there was no love. Those of us who thought we loved the disordered realize it wasn’t love, it was us being us. When we no longer have the shackles of having to deal with the disordered we realize that what we feel, if we feel anything it all is not love. Love is not constant fear of reprisals, love is not being tied to a hateful human being, love is not hate. Love is love.
Watching my spath in court this week I could observe him. Really observe him as I didn’t before I realized what he is. I watched him pace the hallway, back and forth, back and forth, with an agitation I had seen at different times in our marriage. One could confuse this pacing with nervousness. I watched him and he paced like a caged wild animal-back and forth, side to side, looking out at the prey on the other side of the cage. He appeared to be in a cage of his own making, unable to lunge for me, as he so desperately looked like he wanted to do. His “nervousness” was his behavioral manifestation and acknowledgment that his of poor impulse control had to be contained in court of law. The courthouse became his cage. It was really something to see. Him being the caged animal. When he got back home he barraged me with almost 100 emails. He had to lash out after an afternoon of being caged up.

Hope Springs

OMG, as usual, becomingstrong, your post hits the nail right on the head.

If you can actually OBSERVE them and really SEE who they are, it is quite something. We can only seem to do that after we REALIZE what they are. Only then, we can truly SEE them.

They literally seem not to be ‘human’ in the real sense of what being human means. There is no warmth or anything akin to love…no…they are cold and calculating…just like a cougar stalking prey.

It’s eerie and surreal. I hate the realization, but I am thankful fot it all at the same time!


I loved this comment. My ex would act the same the one and only time I took him for child support. He hated that someone else had control.


I’m sorry I wrote this entire novel about my life but I’ve this all in for so long. I was too ashamed to share my story with anyone. I don’t expect anyone to read through it but it was cathartic to get it out. Thank you for having this outlet. This site was such a great find. I finally feel less crazy. I’ve dealt with my N/S for about 11 years now. We were both married, but divorcing when we first met at work. My goodness, he loved me more than anyone else ever did. I felt it. I believed it. I was spoiled with his affection. He was an intellect, a romantic, he commanded respect when he walked into a room. People wanted him to acknowledge them. It was intriguing. I was no wallflower. I started that job after getting my first degree, prior to that I was a bartender for years. I had the best life going into that job. I was in my mid 20’s, driving a brand new car, with my youthful looks, and my own outspokenness that seemed to magnetize people. Looking back, some of the biggest differences between me and N/S: generosity, gratitude and humility. I was thankful for everything and everyone I had in my life, I was generous whenever I could be, and I would never boast about my accomplishments or looks, especially around those who I perceived had less than. My ex pretended not to notice the control he had, but slowly he would pride himself on it. Laugh about his cape and how he made this one or that one look foolish. We were together about 3 months, head over heals in love, he kept asking me to have his baby, and how he couldn’t wait to spend his life with me. Then, Whammmo! I find out the wife he’s separated from was 8 months pregnant. I was devastated. I left him, and never let him explain. We worked together so I couldn’t avoid him very long and when I did talk to him, he explained that she trapped him. The pregnancy was her last ditch effort to save their marriage, and she got him wasted drunk one night and he hardly remembered sleeping with her. With my heart in my hands, I convinced myself to believe him. I loved him so much at this point. His wife did have the baby, he didn’t seem to care. Felt he owed child support but didn’t want much more to do with the new baby. They had 2 school age sons also. That’s what his story so believable. He claimed how he only wanted to two kids, 2 years apart, and for the past 5 years, they protected themselves from unwanted pregnancy. But about 6 months before I met him, he had told me he had a one night stand with someone and told his wife he wanted a divorce because things had been going bad for a while, well, basically, he claimed she said she was pregnant. He told me they were both older when they met and neither wanted to be married, but they viewed each other as compatible partners and felt they could be good parents. Honestly, she was quite unattractive, almost manly so I kind of believed it. He talked me into getting a apartment so we could “take our relationship to the next level” (his words not mine). I was reluctant because at this point, he already showed signs of instability but at this point I’m still head over heals in love with him and couldn’t refuse anything he wanted. I was such a fool. A little over a year after we met, I finally got pregnant. It was a long, depressing, sad road, he went to the fertility specialist with me, took me for the laparoscopy surgery to remove scar tissue, and still seemed pretty supportive of my emotions. There was a lot of breaking up and him going back to the wife for varied excuses, “He worried about his children,” “He missed his children, he loved his children” “she threatened to kill herself,” “she keeps brainwashing the kids to hate him, etc” I believed him, and actually felt so inept because I couldn’t get pregnant. My pregnancy was an all time mission for him. Needless to say, he kept coming to me and apologizing and moving back in. It was so exhausting. After I finally got pregnant, almost instantly his selfishness surfaced. Like he trapped me for life, in some helpless state where I am too vulnerable and too scared to argue back. He quit his very good job, lived off of my IRA, while I paid his wife’s bills and his child support, then after depleting my IRA, he left for good. I hate myself today looking back. He could convince of anything, I believed everything he said. I was so naive. Humbly, I moved back with my own mother at age 30, with nothing and 8 months pregnant. Somewhere deep down, I knew it was the only way to protect myself and my unborn from his instability and using. He would never do anything in front of other people. He kept his reputation squeaky clean. For the first two years of Grace’s life, he barely wanted anything to do with her, I would have to beg him to come over, or help me. He never gave me one damn dime willingly but would still come by with a sob story about his finances and take my money. Always promised to pay me back but never did. Some time after my daughter’s 3rd birthday, I found out the truth about that “one night stand” from early in our relationship. That girl was his girlfriend, she had a 4 year old son with him, who was 6 weeks younger than the baby he had with his wife when we met. I was sickened when I thought about how adamant he was back then to get me pregnant when he knew he two other women pregnant at the same time. I’m almost thankful my uterus was broken. I found out about this girl and she told me how he and his wife threatened to take her baby, how he went to the hospital when the baby was born, signed the birth certificate, then rescinded his name a week later. She said she was so terrified that she never took him for child support and never pressed to put on the birth certificate. I was so shocked. I felt like I made a child with a monster. Once again, he explained his version, and made himself look like the victim. Shortly thereafter, I finally had enough and filed for child support. He reconciled with his wife again, and moved 300 miles away for a fresh start. He tortured me for taking child support so much, I dropped the order 3 times in the 2 years I collected it, then terminated it for good 4 years ago. We always had back and forth contact, he’d call when he was desperate. His wife turned out to be equally as deceptive as he was. She hated my daughter and told me that N/S will call her some day and tell her she is an illegitimate bastard. By the way, she is a born again Christian and now he is too for the 11th time. A few years ago, he called me and told me he wanted to kill himself, and if he didn’t divorce her he would. I work in law and know the divorce process. Back when I met him, she had filed for divorce against him but never withdrew the complaint, so I just needed to file a few more documents to finalize it. He begged me to do it. I told him to give it two months and really think about it because he always goes back to her with his tail between his legs. He insisted that she controlled him, and emasculated him, and he needed to be on his own to make things right for all 5 of his children. Of course, this sounded like the greatest thing in the world to me. I felt so guilty my daughter didn’t have a father. I still loved so much about him, and most of all, I so wanted him to validate me, I wanted him to see me as significant and worthy and so was our daughter. I ignorantly blamed his wife for his defects. He was good at that. Pitting two women against each other. She still plays, I do not. I The divorce finalized and throughout the 6 months it took, he depleted me again. And now my daughter was familiar with him so he hurt her too. One night after his divorce, we had a few drinks and slept together, without asking or with my consent, he carelessly got me pregnant again. Literally, one time. It was the beginning of the end for discarding me again. He hated me for wanting to keep the baby. He dismissed me and my daughter, as usual, did not take a single call from me or her, did not care, would only insult me and degrade me if he answered the phone. MY damn phone too. I paid his stupid cell phone bill and he wouldn’t even talk to me. For 12 weeks till I finally miscarried, he tortured me. He was thrilled when I lost the baby. But then in true form, when he needed something again, he would apologize for his mental illness, and wish he would have handled everything differently, and he was so sorry. The 2nd pregnancy was my breaking point, thank God. I just couldn’t keep covering my eyes to his offensive behavior. He hurt mu daughter so much from this experience. She still asks for him, he won’t even give her closure, he doesn’t care. Well, recently, I heard from him and after some passive aggressive digs on me, he told me he reconciled with his ex wife again and he wants me to have my daughter adopted by my fiance at the time. He degraded our daughter by saying he can’t love her because she is imperfect because she is half of me. He was so vicious and hurtful. My fiance and I decided to push our wedding and give my ex what he wants. My now husband is so loving and wonderful. He’s a doctor and is the most compassionate, honest person on earth. He loves my little girl so much and I’m so grateful but I feel so bad to put this burden on him. My ex got re-married shortly after I did. I sent him what he wanted, the adoption consent, and explained that I will not pay for it, he can get a certified bank check for the county I live in for the filing fee. That was a month ago, and still haven’t received anything in the mail. It is an ongoing cycle of torture. And I hate it. I hate him for hurting us, I hate that I can’t hurt him back. I hate that he can exile my daughter and his other son but love the ones with his first/second dude wife. I know hate is prison. I’ve been working so hard to forgive him but I feel like it is impossible. I’m so deeply wounded by what he’s done. My confidence is gone, and I hate myself for being so stupid and blind.


I am so grateful for everything I’ve been reading on this sort of thing. I knew something was going on with my latest ex husband, but of course chalked it up to normal. Afterall, my first husband, the father of my four grown children, was the same way.

This particular chapter resonates with me. One of my beloved labs died Thursday night. My ex states that he was there when my dog took his last breath. Ex saves the day! But the two calls I received don’t confirm this. He said he thought something was wrong with the dog, then called back and told me he thought he was dead. Then, when we got home and after the initial shock, he started the story of how my other lab ran to him when he came home and jumped all over him. That part I believe. My surviving lab was and is still terribly upset. The ex then says he walked into the room where my dog died and that he saw the ex, took a couple breaths, and died. If that was the case, my ex wouldn’t have called saying I don’t know, if he’s breathing. Surely, if you see my dog take his last breaths, you’d know the answer.

Anyway, that was close to 10pm and later that evening he asked if I could hear up 3 shrimp from the fridge. I JUST LOST MY DOG AND YOU EXPECT ME TO WAIT ON YOU? Last night he asked me to pour him a drink. I am very aware of what I’m living, but I am getting out! We’ve been divorced 2 months and he’s still living in my house. I broke up with him once and he didn’t leave. I realized financially I needed to sell a house then. Financially it make sense. I *again* have to sell my house, again for financial reasons. This time, I hastily married him during a vulnerable moment (hospitalized for my heart condition I had almost 20 years AND missed my daughter’s baby shower because of that). Convinced myself our problems were money and my kids. My kids are grown (he still complained about them) and he was making $100K (but always broke). Anyway, I had some savings and convinced myself that with another income earner in the house, my savings would stretch farther. COMPLETE OPPOSITE! He quit a great paying job to work from home but never really worked. When he returned to selling cars, he’d put money in our account meant for household expenses and then would spend it when his personal money ran out. All that to say this. I AM FORCED TO SELL MY HOUSE AGAIN! And he isn’t budging until that happens. I think he thinks it won’t happen. Just like he didn’t think the divorce would happen. That was the hardest thing I had to do in my life. I had to stay focused on the fact my house is paid for and if I sell it while still married and buy something else, I’d have to give my kids all documents to show separate property (Texas) in the event I died and he fought them for “his” portion. I’m grateful I’m on to him. Mad at myself for allowing him to continue to stay. He’s using against me the fact I don’t like people mad at me. And guilted me years ago to think he’s always there for me when my health declines. He is, but I shouldn’t feel like I need to house him while he spends money on stupid crap instead of saving for his own place.

Cat – what a terrible story. That’s so typical of a sociopath when a person close to you or a pet dies – “He’s gone. Get over it. What are you doing for me today?”

I’m glad you’re on to him.

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