By | November 16, 2015 52 Comments

Why falling for a sociopath doesn’t mean you’re stupid

Image courtesy of nenetus at

Image courtesy of nenetus at

Lovefraud recently received the following email from a reader whom we’ll call “Agatha.”

Since I found your website I have been doing a lot of reading, learning, and understanding.

I made my break from my spath about three years ago. I keep reading how a spath knows who and how to catch a person in their web. Seemingly being very intelligent as to getting exactly what they want from us.

In my case, my spath doesn’t seem to be all that intelligent. Does this mean that I was taken in by a man of low intellect, and what does that say about me?

I’m having trouble understanding how a man who seems to have no common sense and lacks vision (he has been trying to sue me, but I seem to be one step ahead, so far) could possess the intelligence to fool me in the beginning.

Getting fooled by a sociopath has nothing to do with intelligence. I’ve heard from thousands of smart, successful people who were taken in by these predators.

So how does it happen? Why can sociopaths get us to act against our own self-interest? Two reasons: Our humanity, and our cultural myths.

Trust makes us vulnerable

The human race survived as a species because of trust, according to Paul J. Zak, author of The Moral Molecule the source of love and prosperity. Back when we were cave men and cave women, trust enabled us to live in groups, which enabled us to protect ourselves, which enabled our species to survive.

We are biologically programmed to trust literally. A brain chemical called oxytocin, called nature’s “love glue,” makes us feel calm, trusting and content, and eliminates fear and anxiety.

Oxytocin is released into our brains and bloodstream when we experience intimacy, and not just sexual intimacy. Hugs, empathy and even conversation cause our bodies to release oxytocin, increasing our level of trust for whomever we are interacting with.

This is all normal and natural. It’s the human bonding system.

Sociopaths as hijackers

Sociopaths do not bond like the rest of us do. They have excess testosterone, which interferes with oxytocin. And they are missing the “oxytocin receptors” that are necessary for oxytocin to work. These issues help explain why sociopaths have no empathy.

Even though sociopaths do not feel empathy, they know that they can manipulate us by taking advantage of our empathy.

Therefore, sociopaths hijack the normal human bonding system. They engage us in conversation, they appear to be affectionate, they offer emotional and physical intimacy.

Sociopaths use our humanity, our built-in predisposition to trust others, against us.

For more on how oxytocin works, read my previous Lovefraud article:

Oxytocin, trust and why we fall for psychopaths

Cultural myths

The problem with our natural instinct to trust people is that we don’t realize that we need to be very selective about whom we trust. We don’t know that there are people in the world who seem to look and act just like us, but have totally different motivations.

We don’t learn about personality disorders. If we hear about sociopaths and psychopaths at all, it’s through movies and TV shows, in which they are unrealistically portrayed as deranged villains.

In fact, all our lives we hear messages that hide the truth about the human predators among us. Here are the most dangerous cultural myths:

“We are all created equal.”

“There’s good in everyone.”

“We’re all God’s children.”

“Everyone deserves a second chance.”

“Treat everyone the way you want to be treated.”

“Everyone wants to be loved.”

“We’re all basically the same.”

The problem with these statements is that they contain the words “all” and “everyone.” Yes, they are wonderful principles to live by as long as you’re dealing with people who are not disordered.

If you are interacting with a sociopath, following these principles can lead to your own heartbreak, devastation and destruction.

Serious disadvantage

In the end, falling for a sociopath doesn’t mean you’re stupid.

It means that you’re a normal person, trusting as we are meant to trust, and believing all the cultural messages encouraging you to trust.

So please don’t be hard on yourself. Until the existence and tactics of sociopaths become common knowledge, normal, empathetic people are at serious risk of being exploited by sociopaths.


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This is the best explanation I’ve seen about how the sociopath is disordered. In the case of mine he showed absolutely no empathy for anyone, ever. Good to know there is at least a real explanation, not just that the devil made him do it!


My spaths all want love and the adoration they see others experience but their search is usually unfulfilled because they themselves are incapable of really feeling these emotions. I see them as endlessly searching for the love they felt from their moms as babies. Once a negative is experienced, they simply move on to another potential victim.

Hope Springs

That is very interesting.

Thank you.

Hope Springs

In that cultural myth list…’Everyone wants to be loved’…that’s the one that I have a problem with…

Do even sociopaths WANT to be loved? I struggle with that as a mother of one.

Can anyone answer that? How can we even be sure?



I think the short answer is personality disordered people want to be in control, to get what they want, and to get out when they are done/bored. Love is an abstraction for them. If you cannot empathize, cannot feel responsible toward others, and cannot therefore make a deep human connection…well, you cannot love, and you cannot want to be loved.

You don’t even have a clue of what love feels like, what it needs to thrive.

Hope Springs

Thank you slimone.

My husband and I are both so torn. I am further along in this realization of what a SP son means, than is my husband. I KNOW that my son has no real feeling or caring for us. No loyalty whatsoever.

Mu husband thinks that our son NEEDS us, especially me, his mother.

My husband and myself both have wonderful loving mothers, so this is difficult for both of us.

Your post has helped. Thank you. I appreciate any input at all on this issue. 🙂



Some sociopathic behavior looks less about the sociopaths being smart themselves and more about emotionally hijacking our brains to be used for them. They hook us into bonding with them and empathizing with them, accepting them into our trusted inner circle, and once we’ve bought into the overall idea they presented (which they do very quickly) they don’t need to bother being consistent or be smart. They can do whatever they want at the time, if their mask slips they deny it later, and they get us to make up excuses for them in our efforts to have their actions and words fit with the impression we already have of them and keep our view of things secure. We can even customize the excuses to what we best accept. We do that mental work, not them. We also can’t analyze issues it never occurs to us to question, no matter how smart we are.

I’m trying to get myself to notice when I’m making excuses for someone that they don’t bother to make themselves, and from there see whether they’re relying on me doing that for them. It’s illuminating. And once I make people come up with their own excuses, they’re often not very good ones. Basically, I’m trying to keep my brain for my own use, not others’ use against me.

Hope Springs

Yes! My husband DOES make excuses for our SP son.

Things like, ‘he’s just like all the young people these days’ or ‘he’s just going through a divorce like millions of other people’. Only, in our son’s case, his SP-y makes it much worse than so called ‘other’ peoples’ happenings or problems in their lives.

Too right, your post. Also,the SP RELYING on others to make the excuses for them. Nothing is EVER their fault. They are always being wronged. Illuminating indeed!

Very good post! 🙂


Hi Justkeepwalking – I always enjoy reading your posts with so much insight and wisdom. I learn a lot.

Sorry, to bother you here on a different threat. It is just that I posted something on my thread that is worrying me quite a lot at the moment. I thought to ask for your opinion on it if you don’t mind.


still reeling

justkeepwalking – This comment is extremely astute and embodies exactly my experience. The quick, startling but flattering, interest and bond they establish, their ability to get under our skin to the pt where we make excuse after excuse for their bizarre, inconsistent, questionable behavior….yes, we attempt to keep the fairy tale going, it feels so heady. We want them to fulfill our original “view of things” so we lie to ourselves to keep it going. Yes, as you said, we do the mental work, they don’t.
“We also can’t analyze issues it never occurs to us to question, no matter how smart we are.”
Exactly!!! I did not even consider the path in my life to be anything but somewhat bizarre, one day sharing overly personal info, the next, refusing to reveal his vacation destination. To be honest, I asked only to be nice and was surprised (as always) that he’d tell me what his shrink said about his marriage but not where he was going on vaca. But that was the extent. Once things were over with, ending in the most freaky of ways, I began to Google his behaviors and got page after page of SOCIOPATH. That’s how I found this site.

I do think paths look for vulnerable women. They are deathly afraid of strong, openly confident women who aren’t concerned about what people think of them. The path in my life had a very responsible job and was frightened to death of the outspoken, strong women in our office. He saw me exactly as I was, a pretty, vulnerable, older woman, that he thought he could use and abuse. They don’t like stupid women for more than sexual abuse because they get bored so easily.


Great article. I used to feel the same way, how I could I be so stupid? But the further away from him I got and the more I processed the experience, I was able to see how he used my love for him…well who he pretended to be…against me. The few skip ups he made when in was making my break woke me up and help me escape successfully. I was able to put it ti to perspective, he duped everyone around him, to include the federal government. He competed for, and won, a competitive grant for a brillant project and was awarded $109,000 to run the project which would have greatly benefited the community he lives in. Instead, he spent $60k on drugs and women. So he duped the feds as well. I decided not to feel bad about it anymore. I was no match for him, I could never envision doing the things he had done. So I would say to “agatha” to be gentle with yourself. These are experts in manipulation to a degree that is unfathomable to those of us who are not.


I think it is vital to understand the information that Donna presents on biology and culture. As a former victim of an extremely clever and successful psychopath,
I am an experienced psychotherapist, and since the veil has been lifted have been helping many many women to get out from under the spell and toxicity of being in a relationship with the disordered man.
(Of course there are women psychopaths but we all know that the majority of these creatures are male.)
However, one of the commonalities I’ve noticed in the 40 to 60 women I have worked with over the last five years who have been in this situation is that we share a few traits, one of which is a degree of emotional neediness, and perhaps less than adequate boundaries.

I think that these and other traits, some of which have been identified by Sandra Brown in her book Women who Love Psychopsths, make those of us who possess these traits easier targets then women in the general population.

There are probably some very interesting feminist analyses of how women in general or vulnerable to these men by virtue of being an oppressed class but that’s another discussion!

In my work with clients and then my own reflections about the 20 years that I suffered with this man, I think it’s important to make a distinction between factors that leave us vulnerable, on the one hand, and aspects of psychopathy that are complex, nuanced, and critical to understand if one is to heal and prevent further entrapment with another.


I just read the accompanying article on traits and some comments about the need for data and the use of the word codependent. I have a strong research background and I’ve also not found the term codependent useful.
But we are at th early stages of understanding these things and compiling data from differerent sources using different means can eventually create strong explanation and be used to publicize the extent and impact of psychopathy, which I think of as a silent public health crises.
I would give anything to see family docs, nurse practioners, ob/gyns more tuned into this as the pact of being involved is so serious in terms of physical health in addition o the emotional damage.
Getting the word out is crucial, as are our discussins and exchanges.
Thanks Donna for creating this vibrant forum and community.


Same with a course in psychology for the legal profession (police, attorneys, court employees, DA’s) all to become more adept at spotting and dealing with this growing mental illness.

Hope Springs

Yes, these personality disorders DO seem to be growing.

I wonder if they are, or if we just are more knowledgeable about them now. The ‘difficult’ people that we encounter in our lives may not just be simply difficult!?

Ever since I realized that my son is a SP, I have found out about two additional people that probably are as well! One, that my husband works with and another that my own boss is dealing with, who is my boss’s friend.


Think about leaders of all kinds; sports and media “stars”(Lance Armstrong, Corporate CEO’s. financial advisers (Abramoff) “cult” leaders (Jim Jones), Heads of State (Hitler), attorneys, police…anywhere there is power and control.


For years I have blamed myself for not leaving my sociopathic spouse. I was raised by a disordered yet physically beautiful mother. From the beginning I was told I was “nothing and no one”. “You are not important, you don’t count, if anyone thinks about why they love you, this person will probably change his mind” . Just a sample of the ferocious use of language to belittle and harass her child, me. By the time I was nineteen years old, I married the first person who asked me. His name was Steven. I knew him only one week. By the second week, we were engaged. I left the state and became immediately, his sex slave. Without boundaries, completely unsupported, and ill equipped for the challenges of being married to a psycho, I became a walking, talking zombie.
Over several years, Steven and I raised 3 children. My shame at not leaving my husband is pervasive simply because his mind set and corrosive value system were absorbed by 2 of my three children. My emotional deprivation compelled me to remain in denial for years and years. Only many years later did I finally seek a divorce. My son and my daughter have developed that superficial charm that masks a truly cold heart. There is no loyalty or feeling of affection toward me. My son has been in prison, petty theft. My daughter is sexually permiscuous to such a degree I fear for her safety. Both, my son and daughter, were adopted as infants. I nurtured them from three months old onward. How could I not blame myself for failing to protect my children from the influences of their psychopathic, but charming, father!! I am not ignorant but I behaved ignorantly. Could my story help? I’m not really sure. My story haunts me as a mother. Thank you. Kalina


Hi Donna, You point out that they “have an excess of testosterone” which interferes with ocyticin, the affection chemical we have in our bodies. We all know, though, that women can also be sociopaths. What research has been done on their brain chemicals? It’d be hard for me to accept that female sociopaths have excess testosterone.


Thanks for you support in naming so many of the cultural myths I fell for Agatha. I fell for them all.
The one cultural myth I don’t see on your list is to “give them the benefit of the doubt.” it is the basis of our legal system. You cannot give benefit of the doubt to a pathological liar or one without conscience. They, or at least mine is indeed not responsible for anything “he” did because he manipulated others to do it by proxy, or he created alternate identities, or he gave assets to others outside our marriage. Yet, I can assure you he is responsible for the devastation to my family.
Until the legal system and law makers understand the true meaning of psychopathy, they really wont ever create a system that deals with them. It is this chimarical effect we have to solidify so everyone can see the absence of humanity in these individuals.


Hi everyone, This is fascinating about we don’t have to be or consider ourselves stupid to be taken in by a spath. The ploy of a “con artist” is that they are Confidence Men/Women, i.e. they create a sense of confidence in themselves, so people will believe them, believe in them, trust them. I wonder if all con artists are sociopaths. Could be, huh.

We keep hearing about how clever and intelligent sociiopaths are. But Agatha’s original questions were:

“In my case, my spath doesn’t seem to be all that intelligent. Does this mean that I was taken in by a man of low intellect, and what does that say about me?

“I’m having trouble understanding how a man who seems to have no common sense and lacks vision (he has been trying to sue me, but I seem to be one step ahead, so far) could possess the intelligence to fool me in the beginning.”

I don’t see anything in this thread that answers these very important questions.

PS If you have not seen the thriller movie, “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” it’s a must for anyone who wants to see a (fictional) sociopath at work!


I think most of us are initially attracted by the false confidence/superiority most psycho’s demonstrate to the world. Only after a good deal of time do we see the inconsistencies and lies and by then, we’re hooked.


So true, so true, flicka.


Perhaps we are focusing too much on the issue of “intelligence” and not enough on the true flaw in our makeup, dependency. I believe, being so emotionally “needy” led me to suspend my critical faculties. I was not stupid, but, I was suggestable. Being needy emotionally contributes to a passive and dependent orientation in general. We were so hungry for validation that we, inadvertently, allowed the most pathetic types of egotists to influence our judgement. Once our judgement was surrendered, the cognitive disonance generated by the disordered style of the sociopath, made it more likely that we would remain fixated. To the degree we lose our focus and make understanding the reality of the sociopath our primary interest, we lose our identity. Once disconnected from our essence, our insecurity multiplies and our contact with reality is compromised. The no contact rule is anything but arbitrary. We MUST find our anchor of stability not in the sociopath, but in ourselves. This anchor is our moral compass. If we do not have one, fear not, your hard work and sincere efforts will get you one. My best wishes to my friends at Kalina

still reeling

This is perfectly stated, kalina. In my case, I can tell you, it was 100% true. What is truly amazing is that I knew pretty much right away that there was something more going on with this dude than being a smarmy cheat. However, I made excuses for all the reasons you stated above. That part I did not understand until I realized he was a true sociopath and I was caught in the sick and sticky toxicity much like a gigantic, thick web inhabited by one hell of a vicious and poisonous spider.

If there was anything good about this mess of an experience, it’s what you said last re: finding our truth, anchor, stability in ourselves and *no one* else. We came into this earth alone and we shall leave it alone. In between, we need to know ourselves in a strong, passionate way and never allow anyone to invade or damage our identity. When you feel that first flutter, listen to it.

Thanks for an excellent look at this truth.


Kalina, you have described the “old me” perfectly! My situation/s exactly, too. But about the sociopath him/herself, I still have Agatha’s questions. Kalina wrote, “Perhaps we are focusing too much on the issue of ‘intelligence’ and not enough on the true flaw in our makeup, dependency.” But what about the sociopath? Kalina continues: “we, inadvertently, allowed the most pathetic types of egotists to influence our judgement.” Are you saying, too, that these “most pathetic types of egotists” can be of any intelligence level — or any level of cleverness, etc? We all have seemed to believe or accept that sociopaths are brilliant, clever in their deviance, just hugely flawed people. It’s confusing — one of the four sociopaths in my life — the main one, that is! — was an extremely brilliant man, intellectually. The other one was the most creative person I’ve ever known. Very clever. He didn’t have much of a formal education. He did follow in my footsteps and earn a Master’s Degree in Education. He almost got kicked out of the program during his student teaching, when he was physically abusive to an elementary student. That guy told me, “I don’t get mad. I get even!” He destroyed a lot of my stuff, in ways that I didn’t discover till years later. His sister was a sociopath, too. She was a major financial con artist. She could talk circles around ANYBODY for ANY purpose. Both very charming people, great liars, great deceivers, very “social” people, basically a-social.


The key concept, from my experience, is the term “primitive”. This word describes the predatory makeup of sociopaths. They are not really rational in the normal sense,. They are calculating, instinct driven, presocilialized individuals. Sociopaths are “as if” personalities. That is these types behave “as if” they were capable of sincerity, but they, in fact, have no soul. They are incapable of self reflection, the most essential ingredient in raising our consciousness. Sociopaths are extremely quick in their responses and tend easily to blindside others with their profoundly shallow, knee jerk reactions. I use to ask myself, “what just happened.”? So fast, so quick, so glib, we are not prepared to doubt what they are saying. To doubt would give us time to reflect, however, our instincts are blocked by our need for intimacy. In this case, trauma bonding is a form of intimacy for a person, who has never felt valued. I must repeat, no contact is an essential strategy for all victims of sociopathic relationships. As co-dependents, separation precedes individuation. To become who we are, we must learn to reconnect with our deepest selves. We will never find our deepest self by looking into the eyes of a sociopath. Good luck and stay safe! Kalina


Brilliant, Kalina! Excellent insights. I have a question for you, and others here, about the No Contact Rule. Sometimes people are in a milieu in which the sociopath is constantly there, too. For example: at a workplace; at a social club or group of clubs where both of you are active, and there are no other such clubs in our area; at performance venues where both you and the sociopath are season subscribers, and used to go there together; at a mental health day center; one’s church that means so much to them. How would one deal with this situation? Here’s a way I did it, but if there are other ways I’d like to know about them. I was once in a similar situation, where I’d be in the presence of the sociopath daily. I was nearly suicidal after only a brief sexual fling with this guy who lied to me in every way imaginable, who was also sleeping with not only one other woman, but very possibly with several EACH DAY. I found quite a few other women in our milieu who had had the same experience with this predator. Well, anyway, I decided to view him as a microbe on a glass slide under a microscope. I peered at this slide through the imaginary eye piece of the microscope. The idea was to “analyze, figure him out” as to what characteristics he had, which would attract me to such a person. This tactic worked well for me to distance myself from him, even though I had to see him face to face every day. I was seeing a psychiatrist then. He was so concerned about me that he provided two hours of appointment time for me. He told me this: “There are two emotions that are much alike: There’s love, and there’s hate. There’s a third way to look at this: INDIFFERENCE, Synergy, INDIFFERENCE!” I was eventually indifferent to this guy. However, since then, I have been pretty much unable to trust ANYONE. I have lots of loving and lovable friends, and a boyfriend who is a gem in every way imaginable. I trust some of these people more than others. My boyfriend has been proving to me, for four years, how trustworthy he is. I still don’t trust anyone completely.


I forgot this part — the psychiatrist said, ““There are two emotions that are much alike: There’s love, and there’s hate. The two are very closely related.”


I believe sociopaths are simply devious. Lying, cheating, manipulating, exploiting, comes in many different variations on the same theme, “no conscience”. They, sociopaths, have a distorted view of themselves and see others as “objects” not as full three dimensional sentient beings. The hollowness that is the sociopathic soul, enables these characters to switch identities from moment to moment. Your rational self is simply hijacked by the incomprehensible nature of your experience. You are best prepared if you simply say to yourself, “This guy (girl) is just nuts. Then just walk away. Paying too much attention to these flawed individuals leads to vulnerability, suggestabity, and brain washing. This is what toxic means. Toxic is poison in a charming bottle. Don’t drink it, do not bite the bait. Do not obsess about him. Move on. Stay safe! Kalina


I agree with you on all these points, Kalina. Which leads me to introduce a new topic on the nature of a sociopath’s soul. From what I’ve read –here and other places, too — the viewpoint is that sociopaths “just are,” or “just exist.” My question is based on some experiences I have had with sociopaths: “Are sociopaths born or made?” We are told over and over that abusers (maybe sociopaths, too, not sure) will plead they had a horrible childhood. I suspect this is true! One of my husbands was an alcoholic, and probably a sociopath. He had two different personalities — one he presented to “respectable company,” the other to his derelict friends, to me, and eventually tried out on the “respectable” people he had met. The “respectable” people would quickly disappear; the rest of “us” stuck around! He was not an obvious sociopath, not to my view, even now. The other husband — the devious one with the con-artist sister I just posted about today — was almost definitely a sociopath. He’d also been diagnosed and hospitalized with bipolar disorder. Only ONE episode, which the docs said it was lucky he’d been so young, probably would never have another mania attack. He was hospitalized for months — that was a few years before me met. That’s an aside. His home background was crazy-zany. His mother was a Christian Scientist, no smoking, no alcohol, no reality in this world — everything is an illusion. She once described her thinking as “fancy mental footwork.” She almost let her son and daughter die at the same time, from a congenital blood disorder that her husband’s entire lineage had, but which the parents never told the kids about. The father was not a Christian Scientist, and he’d been on a business trip, arriving back as his two kids (ages 15 and 16) were dying on the two couches in the living room! He rushed them to the hospital, where both had immediate surgery and lived fine after that. (That was not the con-sister, by the way.) The Christian Science mother was married to his verbally and physically abusive, alcoholic father. In such an environment, it seems quite reasonable that someone bought up that way to have no conscience; be adept at lying, story telling, and excuses to get past these two opposite but collaborative forms of child abuse; be an expert in “fancy mental footwork” which would apply not only to himself, but to others he wanted to manipulate; and to “not get angry, get even.” Another example: What about children who are manipulated and threatened into becoming child soldiers? In his book “A Long Way Gone,” Ishmael Beah graphically and emotionally writes his memoir of becoming, then overcoming, his experience as a child soldier in his home country of Sierra Leone. Is a child soldier a sociopath? Yes! I definitely believe such a child, a monster child, is a sociopath. Can they recover? Ishmael Beah apparently has, or thinks he has, and many other people believe he has recovered. He was rehabilitated by the UN. I met him briefly at a reading of his book at a bookstore.

In regards, my beloved comrades, to nurture verses nature; I believe sociopathy is a result of both. These personalities become subsequent to a lack of proper prefrontal cortex activity. As they lack empathy and are unable to bond, they procure the tools of a master manipulator to build their lives with. It truly is the perfect storm, one from which there is no shelter. It’s a very sad thing, but that’s all it is. A sad, sad reality that those of us who live in, while sociopaths do not, are forced to face.


EricA, thanks for your comments on nature vs nurture. What is proper prefrontal cortex activity? How is “proper” manifested — or not — in a person’s upbringing? Do you know?


EricA, and all, I researched “prefrontal cortex and child rearing” and found quite a few things. I’ve read only one, so far:


I am concerned that we, as readers of the topic, sociopathy, spend too much time trying to understand a mental phenomenon that is irrational in every way. The danger, I feel, is that we create and get caught up in a dizzying array of relevant but confusing data. We are so fascinated by the double bind we are caught up in. This double bind, is actually the mental maze we become lost in. In other words, our emotional energy could and should be spent in rebuilding our ego and not in draining our precious resources. Unless you expect to live forever, I suggest spending your energy developing and implementing a five year plan. Personal growth and self discipline go hand in hand. We do not break old habits by focusing on them. New habits of thought and behavior develop over time. We can affirm ourselves, over and over again. By repeating positive, inspiring and nurturing attitudes, we neutralize the embedded negativity of the past. The journey begins with stepping forward not backward. Frankly, sociopaths do not deserve the amount of attention we give them. We are the ones who really count. I learned these lessons from my own experience. I just say about the spaths, “I have been there and done that spath stuff, now I’m moving on!”


Well-said and worth repeating.


Right on, Kalina. As one friend told me once, “You can’t understand craziness.” I found that I spent a lot of time trying to “figure out” these men who blindsided me. I never could.


Where do I start. How do I begin my 5 year plan. I agree. I’m 10 days out here from my second abandonment. I got it now. I know there is no happy e ding for us. Although I am facinated and double founded to find out all these things I want to move the heck on. Do you know how to start ?


Start by NC which allows you to regain your former, happy self with your own interests (reading, music etc.), not those imposed by others.) As long as you are still trying to “figure them out’, you are still in their clutches. Accept the unexplainable for it just IS and will never have an explanation or excuse. Secondly, perhaps in you pursuit of finding your old self, you will stumble upon your ultimate salvation: finding an interest or pursuit larger than yourself (i.e Donna’s ‘Lovefraud project) which will demand all your time and energy.) This is your ultimate goal of being able to look back at it as just another thing you learned along life’s educational goal. My heart aches for you; don’t linger too long as that was my fate being the mother of 5 infected kids. We women think we can fix all things with love but this is too big a hurdle.

I think it’s important to remember, when we apply the principles mentioned in the article, that we remember to apply them to ourselves first.This is the foundation of healthy boundaries based on self-love. We cannot “treat others as we would want to be treated” if we are allowing others to treat us in ways we do not want to be treated. For example; If we are uncomfortable with the pace required to keep up with love bombing, we can say so. If we don’t cancel plans last minute with people, we should feel it is wrong for others to do so to us.

We don’t have to throw out the baby with the bath water, so to speak. These are great guidelines to apply to healthy relationships.We don’t have to move forward with a closed heart. The key is discernment and patience.

Brene Brown describes trust as a marble jar. She says that in our relationships with people each kindness counts as a marble. Over time, our marble jar with the people we are in relationships with fills up. This is how trust can safely be determined. One small act of trust at a time, and one kindness at a time. If we love ourselves, we give ourselves time to allow trust to build. Claiming to love someone, before trust, accumulated over time, has been achieved is setting ourselves up for betrayal.

It is not stupidity that trips us up. It is ignoring opportunities to learn new relationship skills that leads us to being easy targets to disordered people. Having an experience in an unhealthy relationship,is simply an opportunity to learn new relationship skills and to practice them.



Wonderful thoughts, Jacqueline! With regards to what you wrote, “One small act of trust at a time, and one kindness at a time,” it goes both ways. I think you probably meant that. A therapist years ago put it this way: In a relationship, rather than tell everything about yourself all at once, at the beginning, send up
“one balloon” of something personal about yourself, or something that’s very important to you. If he pops that balloon, puts you down or ridicules you or says something like “You shouldn’t feel that way,” for example, that’s a red flag. [In fact, in my own case — now that I’ve learned to not tell all up front- such a remark ENDS the whole potential relationship. It’s not just a “red flag.], If he accepts your trial balloon, then wait for him to send up a “trial balloon” next, hoping it’s something can accept.” Continue this way for fairly long time while you are dating.


First time posting here.
I’m in the middle of a relationship with a spath. We’ve been together for more than a year and were friends for 2 years before that. He has always flaunted that he was a “high functioning sociopath” just like Sherlock Holmes. I’ve known this for a long time but the signs never clicked that he was (or is) like that towards me. Let me first tell you that I knew not there were legitimate sociopaths at the time I met him or even started dating him. But what I’ve learned from Dearest Donna here, is that sociopaths do not like to lose. Furthermore, I was the prize for winning to him. He had chased me repeatedly for 2 years and I simply didn’t want him in a romantic way. He was perfect for me. That’s how we initially met- through mutual friends who saw that we were exactly the same person.(though, opposite because, you know I care for people way too much and he really doesn’t care about having friends at all). We were completely in love, whatever I wanted- I got. But about 2 months into the relationship we had our first fight at six flags when I made a comment about us going to a waterpark sometime in the future since we were having so much fun. He freaked out on me in public saying that I was insensitive because he had almost drowned once and hated water. He told me that story about a year ago and I really don’t have the best memory(especially when it comes to him). I’m not the best person either, and I understand that. That fight went on in a frosty silence that lasted an hour long wait in line, the bare minute of the ride, and then the 1 1/2 hour drive back home. We started yelling at each other, there was a lot of crying on my end, and once we had talked it out he said ‘I love you’ for the first time. Thankfully, In my case we don’t live together and we’re not married not do we have children. I’ve told him that he scares me and I don’t know if he knows it’s because he’s a sociopath or because our fights are really unhealthy(nothing is ever physical). He doesn’t trust anyone, especially me now because I lied to him about smoking cigarettes and hanging out with my friends. With those situations its easier to lie than to suffer his wrath or disappointment. I’ve never done anything unfaithful, but he won’t hear it. He looks in my phone all the time, texts me constantly, and I’m not allowed to have guy friends. I don’t know how I can escape him, I adore his family and I’d like to be around them. But he talks about suicide and harming himself if I leave him. We only see eachother 2 days out of the week because of our work schedules, I dont know what to do. Am I a mere victim or a trophy?


You are plainly a victim and I would urge you to go NC with him and his family. Remember, he likely got those potent genes from his family. A good relationship does not lie or provoke.


anyone who wants to control you — and surveilling your phone and saying you can’t have guy friends is controlling you — isn’t someone you should have in your life. Even if you can see how you “deserve” suspicion, because you lied to him, that doesn’t give someone the right to control you. The way to earn someone’s trust back isn’t to give up your autonomy, that’s more like giving in to them not ever trusting you. It’s also very common for a sociopath to essentially encourage lying by how they push what they want and how they react — your description sounds a lot like this is how it happened — which sets you up to supposedly have to accept that you “earned” being treated badly. You didn’t earn it, you don’t have to accept it, and — this is key — someone who really cares about you and is willing to accept you as an independent person with your own wants and needs will not *want* to control you and so won’t have that as their response. Same goes for picking on your lapses while likely counting on you to give him a pass for his.

As for the threat to harm himself, that’s more means of control. He’s taking himself hostage, and giving into hostage-takers encourages more of it and the emotional abuse that it entails.


As for whether you’re a trophy or a victim, the victims often start out as trophies. Idealize – devalue – discard is the pattern. Either way it’s being a thing to be owned/controlled, instead of your unique independent self.


Rocky, I totally agree with Flicka and Justkeepwalking. I have rule for myself, after over 60 years of being yelled at and yelling back — from my father and brother when we were kids; from several men and husbands. Now, I say to myself, and to other close people in my life: “I don’t DO yelling. If anyone EVER yells at me, I walk away and never look back.”

Also, “he talks about suicide and harming himself if I leave him.” This is a form of coercion and verbal abuse.


To those who consider making a 5 year plan, I suggest starting with your financials. Try to be objective. Try to generate options which financially make sense. Staying with your job, moving on, moving out. Make a budget and determine your priorities. First things first. You need a roof over your head, money in your pocket and decent food to eat. Most of us have more shoes, purses, and outfits to wear than we need. Clean out your closet, drawers, garage, and mind of all the clutter living with a disordered person can generate. Focus, channel your energy towards the light and leave the stinky freaky world of the spath behind you, for good! Hope this helps, Kalina.


Flicka, you mentioned “infected” kids. Please tell me what you mean by that term. I have two children, adults, who seem to have copied their Dad’s attitudes and values. Is this what you mean? I feel, as their mother, I was responsible for protecting them against toxic influences. I failed miserably and have a hard time forgiving myself. Thanks for sharing . Kalina


Dear Kalina, There are several ‘traits’ that are attributed to psychopaths (lying, superiority, life-of-the-party, unaccountability, sex drive etc.) but which I now see as genes; and these traits, unfortunately, often remain semi hidden until adulthood. I often refer to these genes as infections as they often erupt without predictability. All we can do is the best we know how and let it go.


Thank you, Flicka. I am so sorry that your children have been such a disappointment. I can empathize with your heartache. Your response suggests a strong genetic component. But, my son and my daughter were both adopted. Can I reconcile adoption with psychopathy? I feel in my case, psychopathy was learned. If it was learned and not inherited, how would you suggest I integrate this fact. Kalina


As an amateur, I do not fully know but there is a lot of professional information on the subject which you can receive from this site. love and reinforcement are powerful components. Good luck researching and reading.


justkeepwalking wrote: “They are deathly afraid of strong, openly confident women who aren’t concerned about what people think of them.” I went to several support groups for abused women (my abuse was emotional, not physical or sexual). I got strong, so I thought. But the “quality” and capability of subsequent sociopaths gave me to believe that, for some of them, the intelligent, driven, Type A personality like I became, were a challenge they had defeat. These followup men were sneakier and more subtle in their abuse than the first one was.

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