By | January 31, 2014 23 Comments

Failed Attempts at Marriage Counseling with a Sociopath

by Quinn Pierce quinn pierce blog

I sat in the small, tastefully furnished room and listened to the tick”¦tick”¦tick of the clock.  I had long since stopped listening to the conversation going on around me.

This was not the way it was supposed to be.  I stepped into the psychologist’s office less than a half hour earlier full of optimism and hope.  Unfortunately, I was, once again, realizing how naive I had been.

An Insincere Effort

For nearly a year, I had been begging and pleading with my (then) husband to come to marriage counseling.  Our relationship was deteriorating a a rate that was destined for destruction.  He always supported me and the children going to counseling, so I was amazed when he adamantly refused to go either alone or with me.

I had reached a point where I had given up on ever going to marriage counseling.  I could see my marriage spiraling out of control.  Maybe, my husband sensed the shift in my attitude and that is why he surprised me by agreeing to go to counseling.

It was not what I had expected.

The Chameleon

From the minute we walked into the therapist’s office, I hardly recognized the man I had been married to for over ten years.  Before we arrived, he seemed nervous, solemn, and wavering between annoyed and contrite.  But the man who strode in front of me reaching his hand out to the psychologist and greeting him with a confident smile, was far from nervous; I would even say he was arrogant.

I can look back, as I often do, and pick up on the subtle cues I missed at the time- those cues that explained my ex-husband’s behavior.  For example, as we were walking into the office, I pointed to the name on the door and my ex-husband made a comment that showed me he thought our therapist was going to be a woman.  I asked him if it mattered, and he reassured me that it didn’t matter to him either way.

Setting the Stage

I believe that it truly didn’t matter who our counselor was, but he needed to know what side of his personality to reveal, so the more information he had ahead of time, the better.  Of course, he would do his most important last-minute evaluation of the therapist upon meeting him.  The face-to-face is what he would use to put the finishing touches on his persona of the day.

This particular persona was complimentary and flirtatious, only it wasn’t directed towards me, but rather, the male marriage counselor who greeted us.  Sometimes, I honestly couldn’t tell which was the act: flirting with women, or flirting with men.  Either way, it didn’t register with me on an emotional level. I wasn’t jealous or threatened by his flirting and compliments to others, I knew they were as meaningless as those he gave me.

Playing the Role

Today’s act was one of his most effective.  Within minutes, the counselor assessed our relationship and decided I was the difficult spouse and my husband was the misunderstood victim.  When the counselor asked me why I would be concerned about my husband’s anger, I tried to explain that he had rage filled outbursts that were unpredictable and scary.  The counselor turned toward my husband, tilted his head, and asked with a hint of sarcasm, “You wouldn’t hurt your wife would you?”  To which my husband answered, “Of course not!” As if it were the most absurd question he had ever heard.  The counselor turned back to me with a condescending smile and said, “See?”

Then, as if the matter were completely resolved and I was not sitting across from an aggressive man who had smashed objects, punched holes in walls, abused our animals, thrown things at me, and destroyed many areas of our home in violent rages, he turned back to address both of us and asked, “So, what else?”

Disappointment Sets In

I’m not sure how much time went by as my brain tried to grasp everything that just happened.  It was as if the room was spinning in slow motion.  I could hear my husband’s laughter, that forced, insincere laugh he used so often on those he wanted as allies, but didn’t really like.

This isn’t fair!  I thought to myself, I was the one who wanted to go to marriage counseling.  I wanted to be able to talk about what was happening in our home and explain how hurtful the abuse had been and how serious it was.  I needed help explaining everything; I needed help understanding everything; I needed”¦help.

I knew immediately that I was not going to get help here.  I had been dismissed, and at the moment, I was being mocked.  I wanted to cry, but even more, I wanted to leave.  I sat nearly silently for the next half hour.  I was too numb to be surprised when my husband eagerly made an appointment for the following week.  I returned for one more appointment, just to verify that my initial experience was not a freak occurrence and everything would be back to normal.  Unfortunately, this was not the case.

I’m not sure which was more pleasing to my husband at the time, not having to go to marriage counseling, or me being the one to end the sessions.

His Last Ditch Effort

The next time we would go to marriage counseling, it would be his last ditch effort to avoid divorce proceedings.  However, by that time, our marriage had deteriorated to the point where he could no longer hold the facade or act in an amicable way around me.   The second marriage counselor was very insightful, objective, and knowledgeable.  To my husband’s dismay, she was not easily swayed by his practiced charm.

Within a month, he was unable to tolerate criticism of any form and stormed out of the sessions on a regular basis.  By the third month, the counselor did not mince words when she advised me to get away from him as quickly as possible.  I took her advice, and that of my own counselor, and never looked back.

The False Caregiver 

I understood by then why my ex-husband encouraged counseling for the rest of the family all those years, but never for himself.  In his mind, if I was in counseling, it was because I was unstable, or at least he could present it to other people that way.  He also enjoyed the role of caregiver, as long as it meant keeping me unhealthy and needing him.

In regards to our children, I would later learn that he intended to blame all future problems on my unhealthy influence and claim he was the only stable family member who was left to take care of the rest of us.  My ex-husband believed that going to counseling was a sign of a weak and unhealthy individual.  He would soon learn that just the opposite was true.

Everyone Else Is Crazy

Ironically, the stronger I became, the less my husband supported my continued therapy sessions.  He tried his best to discredit my counselor; he even showed up at a few of my sessions so he could voice his opinion.  When nothing went his way, he started calling my family members and telling them my counselor was putting ideas in my head and giving me all sorts of medications that were making me act crazy.

In the end, none of his tactics worked.  Staying true to form, he eventually switched camps when he realized he could gain something by going to counseling.  Of course, his health and his family were not the gain he was looking for.  He thought it would make him appear more sympathetic to the courts if he was seeking counseling because he was so distraught about losing his family, etc.

Always Looking For an Angle

I guarantee that it still doesn’t matter who my ex-husband’s counselor is, as long as it is someone who believes him to be sincere, endearing, sympathetic and, of course, the victim.  I wonder how many mental health professionals he has gone through in search of one he can manipulate.  Even then, loyalty is not one of his strong suits.

In fact, the one consistent characteristic of his personality is his ability to carelessly discard anyone who is no longer useful to him in any way.  I learned the hard way that this includes friends, family, wives, and even his own children.

True Healing

Fortunately, my children and I knew the benefits of counseling long before the negative experiences I had with my ex-husband’s participation.  Since my divorce, we have continued to work hard to grow and heal, while my ex-husband continues to search for others he can manipulate.

As disastrous as they were, I don’t regret my attempts to repair my relationship in marriage counseling.  I entered the sessions with an honest effort and genuine  concern.  During most sessions, my ex-husband claimed in an accusing way that I had changed into someone he didn’t recognize.  Even if it was meant as an insult, it’s probably the only real compliment he ever gave me.

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Thank you for this post. It really speaks to my own experience.

Quinn – Such a vivid description of the uselessness of counseling with a sociopath. Thank you!


Quinn you write so beautifully!!!! And yes the absolute futility of therapy with a person on the psychopathic spectrum is so very accurate. I did want to add though that I have read on other threads of parents struggling with BPD kids. My experience is that DBT counseling really does help if they actually work the program.
Thank You Quinn!!!


marriage counseling will not help with these people they will only manipulate, the only thing that may possibly help is them admitting they have a disorder and honestly seeking treatment for it, for themselves, not to manipulate someone into thinking it was our fault.

We go for counseling. We hope the counselor can see through the manipulation and lies. Some are good, but unfortunately, some are abusive, character disordered individuals themselves. And some don’t understand pshychopathy to an extent that is helpful.

Reality is, no amount of marriage counseling will resolve the behavior of a character disordered spouse. But if it helps you realize the futility of the circumstance, it’s well worth it!

While our marriage counselor couldn’t resolve the issues between my ex and I, when he finally got around to asking me, “why do you want to spend your life with a psychopath,” I clearly realized I didn’t. I guess he needed time to figure it out and I’m eternally grateful that he did!



Thank you for another truthful statement.My soon to be ex also went to a few marriage counseling sessions. Of course he was wearing his so called “mask” and also continued his cheating lying while in counseling. My counselor saw right through his lying and pretending. At one time when I saw her by myself she suggested I should get a divorce because my husband is an extreme narcissist and she did not see any hope for improvement. Of course she was an “idiot” also, that’s what he said. His words were “why do you listen to that dumb b…..?” He disliked her because she saw the “real monster ” behind the mask. But later he could use “I tried everything with you, even counseling ” against me to justify his cheating . There is no help for them. Even counseling will not change the fact who they are really are.
My counselor has helped me tremendously with individual sessions to stay strong and to start beginning a new chapter in my life. A new chapter without the crazy making, the betrayals and lies, the blaming and cheating. It was very difficult at first but improved with time. She also explained how the no contact is so important and helpful. I actually have to laugh now about the crazy lies he told the counselor. I know he fooled me for 20 years but he could not fool her. Good luck to everyone. To me marriage counseling as couple sessions was a big waste of time and money. Nobody can change evil.


In the realm of “every cloud has a silver lining,” while the outcome was not healing your marriage, it seems your sessions with her gave you validation and strength. While they can’t change evil, a good marriage counselor should be able to spot when hopes for reconciliation are futile, and help you cope!

So glad you’re beyond that relationship!


Out of There

My ex spouse and I spent so much money and time in marriage counseling that I probably purchased a second home for at least one of my counselors. I was married for 17 years and began counseling at year 3. He put on the persona every time. Lied to our clergy to the point that I walked out of the session crying. Finally and I mean finally the senior pastor figured it out and told me to get out of the marriage.

The ex would tell the counselors whatever they wanted to hear, looking like the very concerned husband, when he would have done anything to get me out of the picture and I mean anything. Read about a malignant narcicist. They will not “do” the crime, but will hire someone to do it for them.

I finally found a really good counselor at the same time we were seeing our pastor. He would not go with me or individually. He asked me and my counselor to help him find a counselor for him to see. When I returned telling him that he would need to find a counselor himself, at the direction of my counselor, he threw a fit. She told me that he will need to seek help himself, since she had him figured out and no matter who “we” picked out for him would never be good enough. Oh she knew him well. Consequently he never went.

The counseling at our church. Well, he told three entirely different stories about the same event to three different people. The truth only to the senior pastor who he knew would not testify in court. He lied to the CFI and under oath and never got caught. He will have his time with God. I truly believe that God will not be mocked.

Counseling is very very good for us. It grounds us, makes me realize we are not the crazy ones, gives us tools to get through it until we are divorced. Don’t waste your emotional energy, time and money on them. IT DOES NOT WORK. You cannot change a narcicscit or a sociopath I have been told by my counselor. They are so good at reading people and lying that they can even past a lie detector.

Go to counseling for yourself and your children. FOCUS on you and you alone. Don’t feel sorry for them either. They are manipulators.


When the anger and rage episodes got so un-nerving we did the counseling route with a few different people…so he could work on his ‘anger management’ no avail. NO ONE acknowledged or helped me to understand better or to identify the personality disorder of the man I was married to. Yes, he could manipulate and think that he was saying all the right things, but MOST people did not like him and sensed his lack of sincerity. For much of my marriage I was just biding my time due to the financial mess he had created. And now that it is all in my past, I am free and a happy and grateful woman on my own again…and the best support and ‘counseling’ I have received is by finding this site and all of you. For the first time in 12 years I didn’t feel alone in my quest to make sense of the chaos that was my life with the Me Monster. Donna Andersen, thank you for your passion to carry the flag and bring hope, relief, understanding and courage to so many of us.


Like many of you, I will be grateful for a counselor who was very wise, minced no words, and brought me out of a fog which had been somewhat a permanent feature of my understanding previously. Thank God for the mental health providers who see through the pretense of sociopaths and are then willing to tell you there is no hope unless you leave and chart a new course for your life.


Quinn, Wow, thanks for writing this. I have felt a little guilty and stupid for staying in my marriage for 10 months after my Spath’s cheating came to light. We’d been married 23 years, and I couldn’t grasp that he was a sociopath. I kept saying, “No, I KNOW him.” We were in counseling that whole 10 months, first with one who did not “get” what my ex was, and the 2nd one, blessedly, did. I DID understand what a sociopath was, from dealing with a friend previously, but had no clue that my husband was one. He’d spent 26 years creating this “good” persona, and lived it parttime.

It’s amazing how well he faked it with me, our sons, family and friends. My pre-teen sons DID grasp that his interactions with them were “emotionally absent,” while I did not. The great sex we had probably contributed to my fog.

Your words:
In fact, the one consistent characteristic of his personality is his ability to carelessly discard anyone who is no longer useful to him in any way. I learned the hard way that this includes friends, family, wives, and even his own children.

….I think these sentences are ultra-powerful to those of us who have experienced a Spath, and very hard to grasp by someone who has not. And truer words were never typed.


Elizabeth, yours compete as truer words typed, and do NOT feel guilty! instead consider that my story reads exactly as you worded it, with one exception: I put five more years in. 🙂

We will both be five years older, in five years. Let’s just not be Here anymore! If you can do it, so can I. And, while he can kinda sorta convince me “I deserved it” there is just no way anybody could convince me that you did.


The psychopath I used to be married to after much insistence, picked a therapist in the early 1970’s in Atlanta who woulld not see couples who could not be helped. He interviewed us separately and turned us down. I obvoulsly thought it was my fault.

So I found a female therapist and she saw us a few times before he quit. She stayed with me through my divorce. When I finally told her I was getting a divorce, she said “Finally, I don’t know what took you so long.” She also said she knew from the time she met t back thim what he was. But back then all she could do is hint and I was so dense.

Now I can spot them everywhere. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. Seeing them is a thing children are not taught to do. And knowing them is denied or minimized by most adults. That is their power and socity promotes it unknowingly. “Silence of the Lambs” was a very insightful name for the movie.

It is our job to get the reality “out there” if it is not too late. We have one in the White House now and he is not the first one. They love law, politics and power to distort. That is why our country is so unside down.


The male counselor you saw was very unprofessional and lacked insight. I hope you reported him to the Board of Psychology (or wherever you find the right place to report him to). There is also a list on the Internet indicating 15 reasons to stop seeing a counselor that you may want to read for guidance. I recognized that my last therapist had at least five of those
15 traits. I even had near migraines after meeting with her and that did it. She lied to me about things she had said to me previously. She openly denied. She made outlandish comments, “I know your husband better than you do.” Whoa! He never even met with her. She took his stand even after I told her about his habits, attitudes, manipulations and laziness.
And she was frequently 10 minutes late for our appointments.


Well, I don’t need a list about therapists.

In my opinion 99 percent are not worth a damn. I spent thousands of dollars over a period of 20 years “looking” for answers.

The majority of therapists are stupid and uneducated. I have NO idea what they did in college and then to earn their advanced degree to counsel. I would imagine many people have jumped off a cliff after talking with some of them.

One of the first steps in our education and awareness of mental health issues – mood disorders and depression and personality disorders – brain disorders is to replace all of these worthless individuals.

I have a niece that is a therapist in a small town and she is WORTHLESS. Her father verbally and emotionally abused my sister for almost 25 years. She refuses to acknowledge this fact and as a result we no longer speak.

These are the people that greet at the door with that bullshit smile. Do your research before you WALK in any office. Ask other friends and when you get there KNOW your stuff. Ask them what their expertise is in identifying mood disorders OR personality disorders. Ask them to describe the symptoms to you! If they look at you with a stupid look – get up and walk out!

Or ask me. I am pretty darn good at this stuff.


Interestingly, I recently discussed a similar point with a highly credentialed trauma specialist. I was really taken aback by her statement. I mentioned that my book was an attempt to give validation to people who’d been traumatized by emotional predators and been raped by fraud. She responded that doing so would be “disempowering and re-traumatizing.” It brought home to me why so many therapists don’t validate the feelings that we experience. They somehow think that doing so would be detrimental.

She even went on to say that emotional rape and rape by fraud aren’t really rape. And that people who were “really raped” would find it offensive.

My response to her was “would someone who was robbed at gun point be offended when someone claimed they were robbed at knife point?” Rape is rape, no matter what means is used to achieve it, drugs, alcohol, assault, coercion, or fraud. And I believe many of us here have found relief in the validation of knowing. I know I did.



Joyce –
I wanted to say a quick hello and to say I Get It. The machinations of these professional liars are quite sufficient to fool most. In fact if they are as good as the ones I’ve had to deal with, they can and will indeed fool almost everyone. That being said you expect certain people to get it, to have the insight which should be commensurate with their training or credentials. Hopefully they are able to help others with some of their techniques. When someone reveals that they don’t understand the concepts that you are clearly articulating and then proceeds to invalidate and try to poke holes in your ethical construct, you are getting a glimpse of their hubris. If you come to me and out of one side of my mouth I basically tell you that I don’t understand what the particular issue is, and then out of the other side proceed to give you advice on the subject that you understand on deep levels, and I am basically clueless about, please do not listen to me. Believe me this is a popular recipe here in my area. I am in the process of separating from my Pseudowife. Pandora’s box is open. Before I informed her that we were separating and my intention was to divorce her I was advised to go tell the older men in the congregation what I was doing. She will spin, deceive, play for pity, kick her smear campaign into overdrive, and rely heavily on her paramours and fellow gaslighters. So she is pretty well covered here. I have no illusions about that. What I wanted you to know is that I mentioned your book and explained briefly the concept and that this was absolutely what was done to me. I was defrauded. Like everything else that I mentioned that lead to the destruction of this so called union including how I had been lied to many times, gaslighted, she had been engaged in an entrenched pattern of deception, openly defying my wishes regarding her interactions with the opposite sex, refusing to go to work, making sexual advances to a teenage family member, her destroying my reputation locally through her deception, ect, ect, …. What was their response ? Flat line response. Not a word. On the other hand they went to great extremes to elicit from me the responses that they were looking for. When they attempted to use scriptures to promote their agenda I was happy that I was able to skillfully use the same book to shine light on the fallacy of their assertions. Invalidation is something I know very well. In my community I can honestly say that I have been systematically invalidated for years. At one point I explained to them that the entire construct of these interactions where nothing that I say is supported or validated and everything that happens is somehow turned around and blamed on me where I am held accountable and the ones perpetrating the offensive actions are condoned and rewarded is actually Psychopathic. One of them uses covert aggressive language and posturing and I called him out on it several times. I could say a lot more but suffice to say, I saw what I needed to see. I don’t think they will miss me that much. Lol


I want my money back! When all the affairs started popping up I tried to rescue the marriage and minimize the bleeding of the financial and emotional losses. We agreed to counseling (it made him look good and caring). During the first 5 minutes he said: “when I met her, I was flat on my ass and needed her support. I am doing much better now and don’t need her anymore.” I looked at the counselor and expected her to step in. She just blew it off. I went on my own for over a year to weekly (120.00 per hr) chitty chat sessions and in in the end she just threw her hands up and said she was not sure on who to believe. She also had nothing to say when I undressed in session to show her my black and blue body from being slammed against the wall and into doors while he claimed he was the abused one not having a scratch on his body.


OK counsellors can be duped. That was the case with my S. I still doubt that he was a sociopath But I think he was and I have learnt to trust my instincts. I did before I met him. I cannot actually believe how stupid I was to believe his lies and that he actually told me his counsellor was coming on to him. I don’t think for a minute that he actually told her the truth that he was having multiple relationships and still living with his wife. It has taken me a long time to accept this and now I have absolutely no self confidence as I did before. Before this happened I was a mature very highly achieving woman with a husband children and grand children. I gave everything up for him as he insisted that he loved me so much so we set up a home at huge expense and I cried everyday for my children. I thought it was worth it for him as he was so adoring but at the same time went into rages which I did not understand and did not know what I had done. Eventually I found out the truth and still have not recovered. he went to a counsellor to convince his wife that he had problems and to pacify her that he was doing something as she found about us but not the other 33 relationships he had had which preceded me. Love to you all who suffer as I did and am.


We all have the same story. These “disordered individuals all have the same modus operandum. Psychotherapists are still drinking the Kool-Aid!

True, most of us can be duped. However, trained psychotherapists should spot this at some point hopefully sooner than later.

Robert Hare even admits after 30 years of interviewing criminal psychopaths – which by the way ALL of them are criminals – that even he has trouble spotting them.

Poppycock. Dr Hare needs to reread his list of characteristics. They ALL do the SAME thing. Think about it. They are liars, cheaters, bullshitters,addicts, narcissists, and callous human beings. Although looking at this list who can actually call them “human”?

They are nature’s rejects. Run do not walk away from them!


“liars, cheater, addict, narcissist, callous” all describe my ex to a t. Ironically after he slapped me puncturing my ear drum he suggested I be the one to go to therapy. He refused saying it was bs. He also blamed me for getting slapped because I put my hands on him first. I was lying down in bed mind u, and he was yelling in face. I turned his cheek away with no force. That slap was the last time we were together as husband and wife and i didnt even find out all his double life secrets for several months after the separation.
I myself have tried two therapists, social workers, and it has not helped at all. I feel like they cannot relate. maybe I will keep looking for one.
Lastly, any advice on co parenting after the divorce? He still tries to manipulate me and the kids and play on my insecurities as well as act callous and verbally abusive, blaming me for anything he can.

Hiya Quinn,

Here’s an amusing story that I think gets the point across that we were both making……

When my son was young, he had a phobia about riding the elevator alone. Since we live on the 16th floor of an apartment building, that was a pretty big issue. All the neighbors thought he lived on their floor because he’d ride the elevator to where they got off, then proceed up the stairs the rest of the way.

As he climbed one day, he reached a landing where he encountered a young, developmentally disabled girl, naked and crouched in the corner, combing her hair. Beside her were two boys he’d been friendly with. The younger excitedly stammered, “That’s the girl that Michael just f…ked, Want a turn?”

My son was about 13 years old. He’d been on medication half his life for ADHD and had all kinds of learning disabilities. Thank God he had the presence of mind to say “no” and continue up the stairs. When he related what had happened, I called his therapist right away and asked, “What do I need to do to get him off those stairs?”

Her response was “Get a dog.” The next day, we selected a cute little ball of grey fluff that we named “Bear.” And within three months, my son, who’d been unable to ride elevators by himself for approximately two years, was able to ride unaccompanied. In my eyes, Bear had worked a miracle!

The building had a “no pets” policy and came after me with eviction proceedings. The judge on the case was so incensed that they had done so, he asked an attorney to represent us pro-bono. We won the case. But some of the neighbors, who hated dogs, would get in my face or scream at my child for having the dog. The rule in my building was that elderly and disabled tenants were allowed dogs. My son, as evidenced by all his doctors, was clearly disabled, and the dog had clearly provided him a benefit.

One day, while attending a community meeting, a very tall and angry man began shaking his fist and screaming that my son was not disabled and didn’t qualify for a dog. His wheelchair bound daughter was disabled, but my son could walk and talk and go to school. He simply couldn’t get through his head that there were other types of disabilities than the one his daughter suffered from.

I understood that day that some folks are just dense when it comes to the suffering of others! And you’d think that a psychiatrist or therapist should know better, but not all of them do. It’s extremely important for people who seek professional counseling to extricate themselves from betrayal, emotional rape, or rape by fraud, that they locate a therapist with compassion and experience with these issues so they get the validation that is so important for them.

Jenniferjojo- if you’d like to continue with therapy, which, seems like a good idea considering that you’ll have an ongoing relationship with your ex in order to raise your children, be sure to ask in advance what their experience has been with people in relationships with psychopaths.

Having had a child with a psychopath, who abandoned him, I can tell you that a father’s absence can cause the child to idealize him. Attempting to remain calm in the face of treachery is very difficult and seeing your children manipulated is heart breaking. It may be a good idea to include them in therapy as well.

The more removed you can be from their father, the better, so finding an intermediary like a grand parent, an aunt, or someone where you can drop the kids off during exchanges is better than having them picked up at home. Documenting as much of your interaction as possible could help you both now, and later when your children question your motives.


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