By | August 14, 2013 14 Comments

The Sociopath, Divorce and Small Steps to Recovery

By Quinn Pierce

I have always been the type of writer who prefers notebooks and pencils to computer screens and keyboards. As someone who writes daily, I have quite a collection of notebooks, and my pencils can be found in every room of the house. Sometimes, I go through old notebooks in an attempt to recycle unused pages, and inadvertently, I end up recycling old memories, as well.

Revisiting the Past

Often, it’s the emotional equivalent of cleaning out my closet. It’s an opportunity to see how far I’ve come in the aftermath of my marriage and divorce, and it gives me a chance to let go of some misconceptions about myself and my ex-husband that I have since outgrown. But, once in a while, I come across something that transports me back to a place I had forgotten existed, and if it weren’t for my own handwriting, I might not believe it was even me who said and did these things.

I experienced one of these unsettling moments the other day while I was looking for a blank page in one of my journals. I turned page after page of poems, thoughts, and anecdotes, but when I came to a page that had short phrases running down in list form, I stopped. And what I read made my stomach turn.

Unreasonable Expectations

The first item read: fold jeans in thirds with pant leg tucked under; it was followed by: line up tabs on plastic lids ”¦ and on and on it went. All the way down the page, I read item after item, some, I could tell, were added later in a different color or writing style, but I had written all of them, none the less. And in an instant, it all came flooding back to me, every little action around the house that annoyed my ex-husband to the point that I felt I needed to keep a list to make sure I remembered. Some of the items, such as: make sure the light switches lined up, seemed to make no sense. Especially since he was not an obsessively neat person, and in a house with children, I could name a thousand other things that seemed more obvious in terms of lacking neatness and order.

Tools of Control

As I neared the end of the list, it hit me: none of this had anything to do with the actions listed; this was another means of asserting control and giving himself excuses for reprimanding and belittling me. He was, once again, setting the rules and establishing the ”˜parent-child’ role in our relationship. I often felt like I was being scolded and reprimanded in a way that mirrored an abusive parent interacting with a child. This was a win-win situation for him. If I complied with the constantly changing list of demands, he was keeping me off balance and under his control; if I did not do something the way he liked it, he felt justified to throw his well practiced fit of rage.

I thought quite a bit about this list and the implications of writing it in the first place. I was disappointed with myself for allowing the situation to happen, and I was angry and embarrassed that he was able to manipulate me in ways I’m still learning about. But, I was also proud of myself for taking back control of my own life, and relieved that I would never write such a list again. And these last two feelings far outweighed the others.

Setting New Boundaries

Today, my ex-husband still tries to exert control over anyone he can, especially me. Now that I have finally figured out how to create and keep boundaries in place with him, he tries to resort to other tactics of manipulation. His panic level is increasing daily as he tries to keep his social façade intact while harboring so much resentment and anger. I won’t say it’s easy to always be on guard, but it’s getting easier a little at a time.

It is frustrating to interact with my ex-husband for many reasons. For one thing, his behavior seems to be on a level that is completely automatic, while I have to think about each situation and plan my response without emotion, ego, or anger clouding my judgment. Also, he knows my insecurities and tries to play on them as much as possible. Lastly, and most difficult to experience, he has no problem using our children as a means of hurting or manipulating me. They are, in his eyes, an extension of me. Fortunately, he knows that I will not hesitate to ask the court to revoke his visitation if he does anything that I can document as hurtful to them. Unfortunately, unless he does, my hands are tied.

Moving Forward

Some days, I wake up dreading the emotional battle that I know awaits me as my family continues to recover from the years of living with a sociopath. Especially when it seems like the progress is so slow on this regret- laden path to recovery. But, sometimes, it’s only when I look back that I can feel positive about the future.

I know it will take time and practice for me to retrain my brain after years of his influence. I caught myself the other day turning off a light in the kitchen so that it lined up with the other switches. If it hadn’t been for finding the list, I might not have noticed at all that I was automatically trying to line them up. Annoyance settled over me as I realized what I was doing.

How many more items on the list had become part of my routine? How long would it take me to get rid of all signs of my ex-husband, if that was even possible?

I didn’t know the answer to either question, but I decided it didn’t matter at that moment. I had conquered one battle on my way to recovery, and that made me smile almost as much as walking out of the kitchen leaving the light switches beautifully unaligned.


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Mine has a certain way he wants me to iron his clothes. Yet, He leaves his clothes EVERYWHERE! kitchen table, bathroom floor, bedroom floor, in my dog’s doggie bed! Everywhere!
I mentioned he should pick his clothes up to not get wrinkled..all hell breaks loose” Why do you have to be such a B*tch, if you don’t want to iron my clothes than don’t, someone will help me”!
Later, he apolozies by taking me to get frozen yogurt and says that it’s the stress of looking for work. Which at the time made perfect sense to me… Not anymore of course!


Yeah, it’s gonna take me a minute to get over his crazy making rants.
Question Quinn- I notice some long time survivors say that they ” think” about their s’paths.

Do you find at this place in your life, that you only remember the bad with him so it’s easier NOT to think about him at all?

I’m curious because When Im here at work, I only remember the bad!
but when I’m with him, sadly, it’s easy to justify the bad to get to the good.

To readers: I know there were more comments on this thread yesterday, but apparently we had a technical problem and they have disappeared. Please feel free to repost your comments. I am sorry for the inconvenience.


My ex is a narcissist and he is married to a sociopath. They have abused all 3 of my (the ex and mine) children. They use the children to hurt and manipulate me – he has completely abandoned the oldest 2 – and now domestic violence in his home has happened again with my youngest there to witness it all. Please advise.

Divorced from Gaslighter

If you report the sociopath to CPS for stuff that he has actually done, he will take his revenge by reporting YOU to CPS for stuff that never happened. The end result may be that the children end up in foster care, with your wages being garnished to pay for the foster care AND all of the useless classes that they will force you to complete in order to have the opportunity to MAYBE reunite with your children at some point.

Do not report your ex to CPS, and do not threaten to do so. The people at CPS vary a great deal. Some of them are very normal, but lots of them are deeply disturbed people who had horribly abusive childhoods and are incapable of trusting anybody. They think that the government should be watching every single family because all families have something to hide. In addition, the supervisors make all the big decisions in each case, and the normal people tend to leave CPS for other lines of work, while the disturbed people rise to supervisor. Be very careful. . . .

Divorced from Gaslighter

imjustsayin, what are the approximate ages of your children, and are they boys or girls?

I remember well,the feeling of being controlled! I celebrated with you,that you walked out of your kitchen with the light switches “beautifully unaligned”!

I had thought that I could just get a legal separation to protect myself from bill collectors or any problems that come up once my husband comes out of the nursing home.But Legal Aid informed me they don’t do separations;only divorces.I have no intention of ever going back to him….I was just thinking of separation because I still won’t be released scripturally from my marital vows.Oh well.And I’m sure he’ll make it as hard for me as he can.But atleast the children are grown and there’s no house or property to divide.He might try to say the dog is his since he bought it.But he also abused it.It bonded with me.And for almost a year,I’ve had it,taking care of it,and making sure it had it’s shots!

Divorced from Gaslighter

Any counselor is a “mandated reporter” for CPS, even if you are paying for the counseling with cash or with private insurance. You can’t know for sure what the child will say to the counselor, and the counselor will not tell you what the child said. He may or may not drop hints.

I had a bad personal experience with CPS which was triggered by a counselor that my children went to. The counselor told me that he was reporting abuse by my estranged husband to CPS. I thought that my custody would be unaffected, because my ex and I were legally separated, had separate apartments, etc. But CPS decided that I was “influenced” by my ex because I only lived a half mile away from him. The children were placed in a secured facility, and I was only allowed to visit them for one hour per week, with a CPS employee sitting across from me taking notes about our interaction. After the initial contact I had with the children while they were in CPS custody, they decided that I was “unfit” as well, and that the children would need to be wards of the court for an indefinite period of time.

After the children had been there about a week, it happened that a wealthy friend of my very-well-connected aunt called up the head of CPS and got the children released, EVEN THOUGH she had never met me or my children. She had been a huge donor and fund-raiser for the secured facility that had just been built. I think that CPS was under huge pressure to fill every bed in the facility immediately to prove how desperately this multi-million-dollar place was needed, and to keep donor funds rolling in for other projects and to pad their budget in general.

The most interesting aspect of the whole nightmare was that nobody from CPS ever visited my home either before or after the children were taken. I was “unfit” without a proper investigation, and suddenly became “fit” again when the case became an embarrassment to them. Prior to that experience, I was really naive about how the world worked. Since then I have been fully alive to the fact that the wealthy and powerful are treated much, much better than the average person. My ex-husband spent three days in jail because the bond was huge. He hired an ultra-expensive criminal defense attorney, and all the charges were eventually dropped, and he went back to having 50% custody.

After my experience with them, I joined a group for parents who had been dealt a bad hand by CPS, and I learned that the only thing that was unusual about my case was that my aunt happened to have a very influential friend. This was 20 years ago, and no doubt some things at CPS have changed, but I try to tell everybody to stay under the CPS radar if you can. Every do-gooder in the world has a cell phone and can pat himself/herself on the back for “helping the community” by turning in some frazzled mother who snaps at her children while standing in line for groceries. Just as policemen are under pressure to right a certain number of tickets per month, CPS is under pressure to always have a certain number of children in foster care, because a big part of their funding is based on the number of children they have.

It isn’t unusual for a child to be placed in foster care for some vague form of “emotional abuse” or “neglect” and then be sexually molested by an older foster child in the same foster home or foster facility within the first 24 hours.

I’m not trying to suggest that everybody working for CPS is evil, but a huge percentage of the runaways living in the big cities are teenagers who have bolted from the foster care system. And when they do run off, CPS goes into court and has them declared “emancipated minors” so that they won’t be held responsible if the child is murdered while on the run. It’s just a rotten system — don’t volunteer to be part of it. Nobody really cares about your children except you.

If the child is old enough to convince a counselor that “Dad is a jerk,” rather than have the counselor believe that Mom is coaching the child to say that Dad is a jerk, then the child is probably old enough to tell the judge directly that he/she wants to limit time at Dad’s house. At some point, teenagers just refuse to make lengthy visits to the home of the parent they don’t get along with.

Without knowing how old the child is, it’s hard to suggest much. If the parents live in different school zones, sometimes the child can just say, “All my friends go to Jefferson Junior High — I want to live with Mom so that I can go to school with my friends.” This won’t work with young children, but it lets the court system off the hook to some extent with older kids. They do NOT want the child to drop out of school because he has no friends there, etc.

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