Many people are unaware of what a sociopath is and what they are capable of. Some may feel that something is off about their partner but don’t even realize that they are in a relationship with a very dangerous and inherently evil person. How do I know? Because that was me. I had no idea what traits and characteristics defined a sociopath. I always thought they were the serial killer types you see on television. That is far from the truth. The ultimate goal of writing this book is to hopefully help someone else who may be in a relationship with a sociopath. It delves into my personal story that “No One knew” and how I learned to heal and love myself again.
SOCIOPATH—THE MAN BEHIND THE MASK
I am using the word “Man” because I am referring to my ex-husband, however, sociopaths can also be women as well. I am not a doctor or psychologist; therefore, I am not giving medical advice or psychotherapy of any kind. This book is strictly my story on what happened to me. I know what it feels like to be the victim of a sociopath. Wanting so badly to speak to someone else but scared that no one would believe my account of things that happened because my story was so bizarre with what my ex-husband did to keep his power and control over me.
I suffered years of verbal abuse, which left me emotionally and physically scarred. No one knew what I went through, except my children who endured a great deal listening to his wild outbursts and being a witness to his irresponsible behavior. This book is important for me to put out in the world, and I can only hope that it makes a difference to someone out there that feels alone because no one can truly understand what someone is going through that’s experiencing a sociopath’s wrath. I do.
DEFINING A SOCIOPATH—WHO THEY ARE
A sociopath is a term used to describe someone with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). They lack empathy, particularly an inability to feel remorse for their actions. They pour on the charm and then can turn at the drop of a hat and be deceitful, aggressive, and violent with their words in a threatening way. They are hostile, irresponsible, impulsive, and get involved in risky behavior. They need instant gratification and have little concern for the safety of others or themselves. This all stems from a lack of self-worth within themselves. They think they’re above everyone else to the outside world, and they tend to blame other people for their circumstances.
SOME SYMPTOMS OF ASPD CAN INCLUDE
1. Being “cold” by not showing emotions or investment in the lives of others
2. Using humor, intelligence, or charisma to manipulate others
3. Not learning from mistakes
4. Having a sense of superiority and strong, unwavering opinions
5. Attempting to control others by intimidating or threatening them
6. Threatening suicide without ever acting on these threats
7. Not being able to keep positive friendships or relationships
8. Lying, cheating or deceiving others
9. Breaking rules without regard for the consequences
10. Destroying things that belong to themselves or others
Being with a sociopath is like being with a person behind the mask. I have learned a great deal about sociopathic behavior, but mostly, I have learned a great deal about myself. My ex-husband was well aware of the pain he inflicted on me; he liked hurting me to the point he felt powerful. I was a nurturing mother, loyal in my relationship with him, compassionate and empathetic. I learned that sociopaths target these qualities in someone. They can mask their persona as your soulmate, they suck you into their world, and then once they have you where they want you, they attack.
Even though there are other stories from experts and therapists on sociopath’s traits and characteristics, I truly believe it takes someone that has lived it every day, sometimes for years, to know what they are capable of and the trauma it can cause on your self-worth. I think there has been so little research done and that most people can’t identify a sociopath and are unsure of what is happening to them at times.
It’s often our own emotions that first tell us to beware, but your brain wants to believe everything they tell you. Many people marry sociopaths even though they saw some warning signs and deep down they knew something wasn’t right. I did exactly that. I married my ex-husband, Joe, after five years of living together, even though I knew how volatile he could be. I was emotionally paralyzed by him.
He had me right where he wanted me—under his control as his victim. In my story, I use the term “gaslighting” which is a form of psychological manipulation that my ex-husband used on me. The word gaslighting gets its name from the 1944 movie called Gaslight, in which a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind.
Gaslighting is planting seeds of doubt in a targeted individual, making them question their own memory, perception, or sanity. It is a form of emotional abuse. It can happen very gradually in a relationship. Over time, these abusive patterns continue and a victim can become confused, anxious, isolated, and depressed, and they can lose all sense of what is actually happening. Then they start relying on the abusive partner more and more to define their reality, which creates a very difficult situation to leave the relationship.
Gaslighting gives the abusive partner a lot of power, and with my ex-husband, he was all about power and control. He broke my ability to trust my own perception, which is why I stayed in the relationship for eight years. Gaslighting is very common in sociopaths and narcissists. They want to win and remain in control and they will succeed at all costs. Joe charmed me, manipulated me, isolated me, verbally abused me, and blamed me for every situation that didn’t go his way.
If you are uncomfortable and believe someone may be gaslighting you, trust your intuitive feelings—that “gut feeling” that tells you not to ignore the red flags that are waving wildly right in front of you. A red flag is merely your intuition piecing things together, picking up on bad vibes, abnormal behavior, and things that don’t add up right. I now look at red flags as a guide and no longer ignore them as I use to do so often.
Knowing what to look for and the warning signs of someone that is exhibiting sociopathic behavior may help you decide to walk away. According to Harvard psychologist, Martha Stout, author of “The Sociopath Next Door1,” one in every twenty-five people is a sociopath. They walk among us, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The sociopath carefully crafts his relationships so that he can get his partner to do his bidding, whatever that is. He will start off having you believe you’re his soulmate and treat you like a queen, only so he can get away with sneakily treating you like a pawn. Once he identifies your weak spots, he will use them to manipulate you.
For eight years, I was lied to, emotionally abused, threatened, and intimated by a man who all the while professed his undying love for me. This book is a memoir. I wrote it because I felt I had to share my story and be a voice for others that may be too scared to speak up for themselves, as I was once that person. I’ve been faithful to my memory, but my subjects may remember things differently as I intend no harm to anyone. For privacy concerns, I have modified names and specific places of reference but not the narrative.
I recently moved to the Midwest and have found great joy in the majestic lifestyle that country living offers. The change has done my heart good. It was here where I finally felt at peace and I was able to embrace my fear while finding my sense of courage to write this book. I have also found love again and happily married to my best friend, who is loving, kind, and brings so much joy to my life. The hardest thing for me once I left Joe was to trust another person. I took time to heal and found myself again along the way. What I recognized through this whole experience is that I had to learn to trust myself and that the secret of true happiness came from within me.
The one person you need to love every day is “You.” I realized that my ex-husband taught me the most important lesson of my life—to trust myself. I moved on from the gaslighting and the abuse, followed my heart, and focused on things I loved. Ending a relationship with a sociopath is only part of the journey. The next step of healing is loving yourself. Starting over and finding you again. To learn to trust yourself.
My sincere hope is that my story can help someone else involved with a sociopath to understand that they are not alone and how they can protect themselves and find courage, strength, and love after leaving the relationship. Months after my divorce was final, I was asked by a friend if I had met someone else. I remember smiling and saying, “Yes— I met me.