By | March 3, 2016 36 Comments

Why A Relationship With A Sociopath is Soul-Destroying–Some Thoughts

dead tree

Many people describe a long-term relationship with a sociopath as “soul-destroying?” Mine was. But, why? How does this happen. I’m still searching for all the answers, but here are some thoughts.

Insidious Erosion

Perhaps some, but not all, of the answer is erosion.

Increasingly, he doesn’t come home for dinner; she’s chronically late for commitments with you; he flirts with other women in front of you, then denies it, attributing your concern to your insecurity; instead of engaging you over brunch, she’s constantly checking her phone. Sometimes, she just ignores you. He contemptuously rolls his eyes as you voice your opinion, but denies it. He says he wants to take you to dinner and wants you to pick the place. As you are leaving to go, he subtly criticizes you (“Gosh, I thought you’d want to get more dressed up. Too bad there’s not enough time to change”¦we’ll be late.” or “Why are you wearing a dress and heels, wouldn’t jeans have been better? I just want you to be comfortable.) Of course, you haven’t caught on yet, that no matter what you wear it will trigger a dismissive comment. Once seated, he undermines your restaurant choice. (“I hope my meal’s better than when I came here for business last week.”)

Embedded in each of these is the message you are inferior, unworthy, nothing.

The Erosion’s Source

The source of the erosion magnifies its impact, as it is delivered by a person you love and respect, perhaps above all others. You don’t leave the relationship, as each comment is either so small that it flies under your defensive radar screen or it flags your defenses, but, when you talk about it (as communication is part of a healthy relationship), you are told you are too sensitive, too emotionally immature, too needy (more criticism). To prove to yourself and to the person you love that you are strong not weak; mature, not immature; independent, not needy; you soldier on. Scrape, scrape, scrape, the erosion continues.


Gaslighting is crazy making and the source of the gaslighting makes it all the more insidious—a person you think has your back and wants the best for you. This is the person who you are sure agreed to pick up wine for a dinner party you are hosting, yet arrives empty handed. He states with unwavering confidence that you never asked him to bring home wine. If you had, of course he would have, and gosh, you can be sooooo disorganized and forgetful. This doesn’t match your memory, but his confidence makes you assume you misremembered. He then discounts the need to have wine for your guests. By doing so, if you still feel it’s necessary to serve wine, you must run out at the last minute to get it. Will he thank you? No, because he’s already deemed it unnecessary. He may even mention that you can be so controlling to insist on things being your way. He’ll be relaxed and gracious when your guests arrive. You’ll be rushed and harried, “Relax, Babe,” he’ll say, “you’re sooooo tense.” He’ll shake his head to communicate to your guests, “See what I put up with?”

Scrape, scrape, scrape your confidence wanes.

Who Am I?

Over time, you hardly recognize yourself. You ask, “How did it come to this?” “Who am I?”

As corrosive as these things are, I feel that if this is all that had happened to me, I would have rebounded faster. As evidence for this, during my toxic marriage, when I’d be away from “Paul,” for a week or so, I’d feel a resurgence of confidence and strength. I was like a wilted flower that just needed sunlight and water—I was weak, but still intact.


The idea of a self-concept is central to the personality theory of the famous psychologist Carl Rogers. He defined it as “the organized, consistent set of perceptions and beliefs about oneself.”

This “organized,”internally consistent theory of who I am and what I believe makes me me. It is my essence—my identity. Perhaps this is my soul (speaking nonreligiously). This is what Paul nearly destroyed during our separation, divorce and post-divorce aftershocks.

I can infer what some of the foundations of my belief system must have been:

  • I am smart and competent
  • I am safe
  • If I work hard enough, I can tackle life’s problems
  • Life has predictability
  • Most people are fundamentally good
  • The legal system makes sense, generally justice will prevail
  • I am honest
  • ”¦

The brutal realization that Paul is probably a sociopath, that I’d wasted 20 years of my life on a man who’d never loved me, and being subjected to his fury and rage and constant emotional and financial attacks set in motion a cascade of events that eventually shattered most of my basic beliefs about myself and the world and strained other beliefs close to breaking.

My Self-Concept Is Undone

My self-concept—my identity—my soul—was decimated. It was no longer organized and consistent, in fact, it hardly existed at all. So many of the pieces which once comprised it had been invalidated. The wilted flower didn’t just need water and sunlight, it was as if it had been uprooted and shredded—leaves torn from stems, petals ripped and crushed. In this situation, putting the pieces back together was not possible—they no longer fit—they no longer worked. I was no longer an integrated whole.

One Building Block—Holding On

Even as I write this, I am having a bit of an “ah-ha” moment. In the midst of despair, fear, profound sleep deprivation and searing emotional pain;  I remember clinging desperately to one of these pieces—that I am honest. In my spent, totally stressed-out state while Paul relentlessly attacked me during our separation and divorce, I clung to that premise like a shipwrecked sailor clinging to a piece of driftwood—no matter what Paul did, no matter how underhanded, dishonest, scary and even illegal his behavior I would not compromise my integrity. At first, I hardly had the strength to fight at all, but when capitulating to his demands only brought more exploitation, I fought back.

Yet, even when I fought back hard, I always fought clean. Full stop, end of story. Perhaps I had such clarity on that point because it was one thing I could control, and it was one piece of my former self I could choose to retain.

A Second Building Block

Yes, it was soul-destroying. The “me” that existed prior to Paul did not just evolve, as most people do as they grow and mature, she turned to ash. She almost ceased to exist. I feared that a gust of wind would scatter the ash and what was left of me would be gone forever. Yet, that did not happen. My son’s similar undoing pushed him close to suicide. His distress and the maternal drive to save him focused me. Regardless of any previous flawed parenting, being the best mother to him that I could be had to be at the core of the new me. Full stop, end of story. So now I had two building blocks—I am honest and I will be the best mother to my son I can possibly be. The rebuilding would need to continue from there.

Driven to Understand And Reintegrate

Is this why victims of sociopathic relationships are so driven to understand? Simply putting former pieces of oneself back together is not an option. For some, being newly remade is required. To do that I had to autopsy the experience in painstaking detail. I had to know what was real, not what I wanted to be real, and to review and analyze to understand what parts of my original self were intact, which needed to be thrown out, which needed to be modified and what aspects that were never there must be added.


My own cautionary tale of unwittingly investing almost twenty years of my life into a relationship with a sociopath and sometimes diverting from the best path, is chronicled in my book Husband, Liar, Sociopath: How He Lied, Why I Fell For It & The Painful Lessons Learned (available via, just click on title above). As I don’t get a “do over,” hopefully some of my painful lessons can help others impacted by these toxic people.

 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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I thought it worth repeating that the only way to connect with a sociopath is to let them control you. If they cannot control you, they cannot connect with you. Since there is a spectrum for this disorder, some may have some ability to love and connect to a degree – but again, it will only be if they can exert control over you and you behave the way they want you to. Some control you very overtly, by telling you what you can and cannot do. Some find that when they cannot control you overtly, they will resort to more covert methods like gaslighting. The key to recovery is breaking free from the control. In order to do that, you have to be willing to let go of the connection you feel when you are in their clutches – all the good stuff you get from them. This is very difficult because those things are addicting, even if they are just intermittent. Without that connection – whether it be real or imagined – it can feel like you will die of loss.

There are so many people out there longing for connection, who feel isolated, lonely, and a desire to belong. These people, especially young ones, are easy targets for cult leaders and other sociopaths. The really charismatic sociopaths can convince mobs of people that they are “loved” and special if only they behave in the way the sociopath wants. And if they don’t, they will be excommunicated. It’s a very powerful and manipulative tool. We all want to feel special. And they use that against us.


Speaking from experience, your comments really hit home, Stargazer, and give me such insight and enlightment. These are things I had never even thought of. The Sociopath could not so easily control BPD on there because even though the BPD desperately wants to belong more than anyone else, and also not be abandoned, the BPD is triggered on this Sociopath’s Forum, becomes chaotic, becomes moody, and chaotic, and cannot so easily be controlled as the rest due to the volatile rage that is being triggered within her. Thus, the Sociopath made her into a Scapegoat. The BPD also began taking up a bit too much of the attention that was meant for the Sociopath in terms of Negative replies, and this might have caused enjoyment at first for the Sociopath in seeing the BPD ganged up on, but perhaps eventually it took attention off from the Sociopath, himself, and he vowed to get rid of her by furthering his short, abrupt, and obstinate replies just for her, (while being charming and funny to all the other commenters), which caused the others to further harass the BPD. Whenever anyone was kind to her, including the rare time the Sociopath was cordial to her, she’d respond in just as much kindness, out of relief- due to all the times they were all so mean to her. But, out of the blue, for no reason, he’d scorn her, again, and they’d gang up on her all over, again, causing her to rebel. Vicious Circle.

Also, she was triggered due to the private correspondence, off the blog between she, and the psychopath. Apparently, when she had first joined the blog, he emailed her first. This is something the other commenters never knew, or would ever know about as to part of her anger and chaotic manners on the forum in the way he addressed her in front of everybody there. Anytime she tried to make it known about the private communications, the Sociopath erased her comments.

Any other thoughts on this particular scenario, Stargazer?


Alaska, I haven’t read that forum, and I don’t know the conversations you are talking about, but just by your description, the entire forum sounds unhealthy to me and one I would probably not participate in. Yes, sounds like a lot of games being played and lots of people playing them or participating in them.

I’m not sure how else to respond, unless you have a more specific question? Thanks for your comments.


Thank you, Stargazer; I think I was just getting it off my chest…


BTW, If you are interested in BPD, a book I recommend is “The Buddha and the Borderline.” It is a self-written account of a woman’s journey from self-destruction in relationships to self-awareness. As someone who was diagnosed with BPD myself many years ago, I really enjoyed reading. Another book is the Bible for BPD. It’s called, “I Hate You. Don’t Leave Me.” I have never personally read this book, but I probably could have written a book just like it with all I’ve been through. I do think that the labels are less important than how we relate to our lives, our feelings, and our reactions. If we can learn to manage these things in a healthy way, the label doesn’t matter. We each have our particular brand of neurosis, and I believe they are ALL workable.

“Is sociopathy workable, too?” you might ask. I used to wonder about this a lot, especially right after I broke up with the sociopath in 2008. My answer now is, who cares? I am not the one who is going to try and change them. I just avoid them.


I actually saw someone on this forum mention these two books earlier; maybe even you…and I, therefore, have these two books on order! So, I will be checking them out soon. I am also working with DBT Skills, but takes lots of practice.

The only reason why I do not think Sociopathy/Narcissism is workable is because these types of people feel they do not need to change in any way, shape, or form, and they think it is everyone else who are the misfits. Anyway, this has been my experience from the Narcissists/Sociopaths I have encountered. One needs to want to change, or feel a need to change, in order for any change to even begin to take place, I imagine.


Hi Alaska, just wanted to let you know that Donna Anderson of Lovefraud has a bookstore up at the top of this site. Most of the books I believed she has done a book review…not sure though.

As for Sam Vaknin, YES, he is a diagnosed Psychopath!! Beware. Like you when I first left my ex h I saw his videos online but he triggered me so I stopped watching them. And later learned of his diagnosis thru a documentary film (online) and sure enough he is and he is extremely controlling & abusive towards his wife. She is fully under his mind control. Very sad that she had not escaped his evil grips.

IF you go to the top right corner of lovefruad & do a search on his name you will see Donna Anderson’s encounter with him in a post.


Oh, I see; the one I am talking about though is that other author who has a public blog site called Knowing the Narcissist. His name is H. G. Tudor. No one has ever seen him, but supposedly only heard his voice on YouTube which all the women melt over. Crazy how they worship him so, and attack those who say anything against Tudor on the Blog.


Hi Alaska, my advice to you is to stay away from any site that states they are a sociopath or a narcissist….to dangerous for your mindset & emotions. I have read that you can be hypnotized & tranced by a sociopath via phone & reading material.

This guy HG sounds like a bad guy & should be avoided all together.


Thank you, Jan7! I never thought about the concept of being hypnotized and tranced by even reading material by a Sociopath, but now that you mention it, two things come to my mind:

1). Evil is very deceptive and if one is willing, on their own choice, to enter this doorway, then they are entering into an uncontrolled, unnatural environment where no good thing can come out of it.

2). I found that even when I was feeling emotionally strong on a given day, and very happy, if I happen to get a Notification from a commenter about one of my comments and when to check it out, and entered back into this Sociopath’s Forum, I would inevitably leave feeling angry, infuriated, misused, and many other negative feelings that I cannot explain. But, I just kept thinking it was “my problem”, and never considered it the triggering of the blog until before I finally left upon realizing that what I was feeling and how I was even acting on the Blog was not really Me- (it was bringing out the very worst of the worst of who I could possibly be, and I didn’t even like that person who it was bringing out). Even now, I am still recovering from the effects of the darkness of where I was, but at least I am recovering, and moving forward.

There is that saying, “When you stare into the abyss for too long, it stares back up at you”. I am not sure if this is what this quote means. But, I went there in the first place looking for answers from previous Narc relationship, and the longer I stayed, the more the darkness tried to penetrate into me…what’s scarier is that i did not run away from that darkness. I keep asking myself why I did not just run away from the beginning. ☹️

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