Eleditor’s note: Elephant is a diverse community of sixteen million readers and hundreds of writers (you can write too!). We are reader-created. Many blogs here are experience, opinion, and not fact or The One Right Point of View. We welcome all points of view, especially when offered with more sources and less invective, more frankness and less PR. Dislike this Op-Ed or opinion? Share your own take here.
Sixteen years ago I got engaged to the man of my dreams.
Most of the time he was the man of my dreams. When I was doing what he wanted me to, or when he had an audience.
I left my career at the largest entertainment agency in Los Angeles, moved out of my apartment with the high white ceilings off Melrose Place down to Orange County to be with him six moths before I had a ring, and two moths after I met him at a car wash.
I married him that Labor Day weekend just as he said I would on our first date.
He was charming, spontaneous, charismatic, and domineering—but there was also glibness about him I hoped time and intimacy would erode. This is precisely the problem with the sociopath. They are all of these things when it serves them, but it is not genuine.
They have an incapacity for love of any kind at all. They are incapable of any real human attachment. They are not worried about others’ lives or dreams. They are indifferent or oblivious to any and all devastation they will cause. They will never accept the blame, for no matter what they are always the victim.
It happens so fast with the sociopath. I didn’t know how to step out of the whirlwind even if it’s what I really wanted to do. You know, deep down inside somewhere. He had enamored everyone in my life already so I had no ally. He could do a “sales job” on anyone, especially me. It was his gift.
His face bore a likeness to Paul Newman’s except with green eyes instead of pale blue, and his nose was a bit more Greek matching his body, that of Poseidon. He never learned to swim, but he played professional tennis until the prospect of poverty was still a possibility, and that’s when he became a salesman. Top in the company. Top in the country every year.
It took me nearly 12 years to divorce him. I filed the first time in 2003. He was charged with domestic violence. I went back to him the next week. My parents encouraged me. Nobody stopped me. It was the same whirlwind only more dangerous, and I jumped back in.
The second time, he had prepared. He was ready to destroy me, and after reading all of my journals he knew exactly how to produce terror and carry out with the necessary punishments. He made a list and proceeded in his newfound goals. He also told me with regularity that he would never have to “OJ” me, because he would get me to kill myself.
So, how to leave a sociopath:
1. Understand that the sociopath is a different animal than the narcissist.
The sociopath sees any conflict as a game, and the more distressed you become, the higher they climax. They are and always were incapable of listening to anything you had to say, but they will pay attention to all of your worst fears and they will take a mental note and use them all against you. So, maybe they do have some ability to listen, but they have no capacity for empathy. None. Nada. Zilch.
2. Think of OJ.
He killed the mother of their own children while they were upstairs sleeping soundly in their beds. It didn’t cross his mind. He is a sociopath. Any time you or anyone else thinks, “How could he have done this or that?,” it helps to have a reference point to a real event that happened in our lifetime.
3. No contact.
Ever. Ever. If you have children, change the contact header to read: No contact! Do not text. Do not take their phone calls. If they are indeed a sociopath, let’s hope you have full legal custody; if not, adhere to a strict schedule or do whatever it takes to abide by no contact. Think of any contact with this person as an illicit street drug. Count the days; count the hours, the minutes if you must. You will miss the texting wars. You will miss how things “used” to be. You must be strong.
4. Love yourself.
We hear this all the time. It is trite. But, not if you have been entangled with a sociopath. I had no idea what it meant to love myself. None. I still struggle. I find the most beautiful love songs or poems and instead of attaching them to a man, I direct them at me. I’ve never told a soul, but it’s a valuable tool. Don’t rush to “love” someone else. This is a time to be selfish. Do not diminish what you have endured. You are a survivor. You are stronger than you think you are.
5. He may kill himself or follow through with any other threat.
Protect yourself legally, financially, physically, and any other way you see as a potential risk. You are not responsible for a sociopath’s mental health. You cannot save him no matter how many precious years you give him. He will never change. Ever.
The man I married shot himself in the head one year after our divorce. There is no part of my being that feels relieved or any sense of peace from his death as others might expect. I am not a sociopath. I don’t know his exact reasoning, thanks to no contact, but I feel it has less to do with despair and more to do with his games. Sociopaths do not like to lose, and he called his own shots didn’t he?