This post was influenced and inspired by a new blog written by someone not-so-new to being victimized by sociopaths. (Yes, that’s plural. She has had the unfortunate experience of having been close to two of these evil creatures.)
The blogger for My Sociopath~Struck by a Sociopath recently posted her own list of sociopathic character traits. The following struck me immediately, and I would be remiss not to write about my personal experience relating to this trait she lists at the #2 spot:
Difficulty Living Alone: Sociopaths usually live with a stronger and more capable person that handles most of the responsibility (financial and other). This could be a person that makes more money, has health insurance (will want to marry), and does majority of household business matters (dealing with day-to-day running, cooking, cleaning, child/pet care etc…)
a. Sociopaths will make it seem the opposite: They are doing most of the household work and making a bigger financial contribution.
b. This trait will diminish as a Sociopath gets older. Older Sociopaths have fewer people to choose from that can be manipulated into a living situation.
The Boy (the narcissistic sociopath from my story) definitely had difficulty living alone. He seemed to exude independence on first meeting. But as I got to know him (as much as a person can KNOW a sociopath) I began questioning just how independent he really was.
His home’s basement consists of a laundry room, a locked storage room, and a two-bedroom apartment. He relies heavily on the apartment being rented at all times, asking more than the place is worth in my opinion. (I only knew the place to be vacant two months over the course of the three years I was unfortunately associated with him.) The laundry room had a schedule for use. If I can remember correctly, I could use it Sunday through Wednesday. The tenants could use it Thursday through Saturday. I thought this was ridiculous and mentioned that grown adults can work out a better system and have it always open for use. He and his mother (or I should say he and his enabler) thought my proposal was absurd, and so the rigid, controlling laundry schedule continued and probably still continues. (FREAKS!) The locked storage room never came open unless he needed to tuck away his taxes for his inherited business. I snuck in once. Nothing of value to anyone other than him. So why the lock? More control, I suppose.
To house his retired mother, he ILLEGALLY WITHOUT A PROPER PERMIT built a detached two-car garage complete with a one-bedroom mother-in-law apartment in which his mother lives when it’s not summer in South America. (I might add that his father resides there on occasion, but the old man preferred being away from the United States and his wife, it seemed, and was rarely there.) I initially thought the boy was a great son for building such a nice place. Soon I realized it was more for his benefit than his parent’s. It was all for money and control. What a good son, huh?
Now on to his choice of intimate partners who lived with him…
His wife/cousin (ex-wife/ex-cousin by the time I met him) served him: cooked, cleaned, kept quiet, and let him live his bachelor life (translated “never asked why he was never home and instead out having multiple affairs”). Before his marriage was final, he sold the condo he shared with his wife (giving her absolutely NOTHING except a plane ticket back to see her family in South America; he needed her gone) and bought the house detailed above and moved in his next victim, who had a great job and growing career. (According to him, however, the mistress and soon-to-be finacee moved herself in, continued paying her half of the rent for an apartment she shared with a girlfriend, and for some reason, paid him each month for the pleasure of living with him. I found this suspect and still do. I think he asked her to move in and told her he’d help support her with her living expenses. Instead, he just took her money any chance he got.) And on top of that, he was able to convince this VERY smart woman to buy a condo (so they could rent it to make money) with the mortgage in her name only but with the title in both of their names. Of course, when he kicked her out of his house and ended the engagement, he also refused to help her with the cost of the mortgage for the condo when it was vacant. After all, he wasn’t legally bound to help her pay the mortgage, was he? What a gem of a man, huh?
And then there was me. I refused to move in with him, which was a constant source of his fury and rages with me. Keep in mind I was separated from my husband, not yet divorced, and with a young son who was in school 20 miles from the boy’s home. I rented an apartment close to my son’s school/daycare and his father’s home. I wasn’t even tempted to move in with the boy at that point. (In the D.C. area, driving 20 miles can take over an hour most days. I wanted to be able to come to my son’s aid at the drop of a hat within minutes, not hours. The boy despised that I put my son first, before him.)
As you can imagine, this living situation did not bode well with this controlling, narcissistic sociopath. According to him, I was cheating and sleeping with my estranged husband every night I had my son and slept in my apartment. According to the boy, I spent all of my time flirting with single men in my building. If I didn’t pick up my phone when he called or didn’t reply to his texts immediately, I was cheating. I was a big cheat and had numerous men coming and going from my apartment on any given day. Hell, I got so used to being called a whore, that the word whore became no more gut-wrenching than hearing him call me “Pumpkin,” which I effing hated and told him every time he called me that. But he continued. Zero respect.
So, yeah, he can’t live alone because he needs someone to control and manipulate on a daily basis. And he will find a way through technology if he can’t have you under foot. He’s an ugly, scary creature who wants to take your identity, crush it into tiny pieces, and scatter it about in hopes you will never be able to put yourself back together again. Because, if you can’t put yourself back together again, he can control you for all eternity. (You think that’s being too dramatic? Well, thank goodness you have never had to deal with the boy or another creature like him.)
According to Martha Stout, Ph.D. and her book The Sociopath Next Door, sociopaths make up 4% of our society in the West. That’s about 1 in 25 people walking around among us without a conscience, without the ability to measure, or care to measure, the morality of their decisions and actions. Would you know how to identify a sociopath if you saw one, met one, started an intimate relationship or entered into a business contract with one? More than likely the answer is “no,” because unlike what we read on the television news or see in Hollywood movies, sociopaths aren’t just serial killers and murderers. Rather, they are members of our communities who we would never suspect of evil or wrong doing and who seamlessly blend into society with the rest of us.
Imagine someone you respect and whom many others respect unconditionally in your community, city, or small town. He’s a CEO, chief of police, principal, or football coach. He has a college degree in one hand and a glass of expensive scotch in the other. He wears a Rolex or TAG Heuer on his wrist. He has a nice pearly white smile and the manners and charm of a prince. He has a squeaky clean driving record, a home, a wife, and children. He has influential friends. He shares lunch with judges and other high-profile leaders in your community. He’s the person everyone trusts and honors.
Now imagine an abuser, rapist, or murderer in your mind. What does he look like? Is he a filthy, jobless degenerate with an alcohol or anger management problem? Is he the guy who yells at his wife in public and spanks his kid in the check-out line of your local grocery store? Does he smoke and wear clothes with holes in them? Does he drink Pabst or MGD out of a can? Does he swear and curse in the presence of women, children, and the elderly?
Hmmmm? What if I told you that the person you should be most fearful of and suspicious of being sociopathic is the one most respected in your community? What if I told you the dirty, jobless guy is the least of your community’s concerns? (He’s still a problem, but he’s easy to spot and monitor.) What if I told you the very person you think you should trust is the one person with whom your secrets, interests, desires and vulnerabilities should never be shared? Kind of pisses you off, doesn’t it? It should scare you, too.
But not all is lost. You can still protect yourself. There are ways to identify who could be the sociopath in your life. The first step toward identifying a sociopath is to first recognize people with a Cluster B personality disorder. These include:
*Antisocial personality disorder—
- Disregard for others
- Persistent lying or stealing
- Recurring difficulties with the law
- Repeatedly violating the rights of others
- Aggressive, often violent behavior
- Disregard for the safety of self or others
Borderline personality disorder—
- Impulsive and risky behavior
- Volatile relationships
- Unstable mood
- Suicidal behavior
- Fear of being alone
Histrionic personality disorder—
- Constantly seeking attention
- Excessively emotional
- Extreme sensitivity to others’ approval
- Unstable mood
- Excessive concern with physical appearance
Narcissistic personality disorder—
- Believing that you’re better than others
- Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
- Exaggerating your achievements or talents
- Expecting constant praise and admiration
- Failing to recognize other people’s emotions and feelings
All sociopaths suffer from at list one (if not all) of the Cluster B disorders, but not all folks afflicted with a Cluster B disorder are sociopaths. Alone, a Cluster B can wreak havoc on your life if you allow it, and the more overlapping of the four disorders a Cluster B possesses, the more destructive he can be. It won’t be until it’s almost too late for victims of Cluster B personalities to know or even suspect that the Cluster B is also a sociopath.
But how can we, as lay persons, make that determination and measure the leap from having JUST a personality disorder to being a sociopath without a conscience? How can we accurately, as non-scientists, measure the truth and conscience of another person? Out of respect for the researchers in the field of psychology and neurology, we can’t. Only a skilled and experienced professional in the field can diagnose or determine the mental state of a person we date, marry, or cohabitate. But we can still listen to our intuition and act in order to protect our own mental health and existence and that of our children.
So, instead of waiting to find out if your Cluster B is also a sociopath, it’s best to be on the safe side and assume that he is. In my experience with a sociopath, I made the mistake of trying to disprove he was a narcissist (because who wants to accept being a victim?) when I should have gone with the safer assumption that he was a full-blown sociopath. I would have escaped sooner, and then I could have spent my time away from him (in a safe place) reflecting, researching, and making the determination as to what he was and remains to be. Making such an extreme assumption is not a very scientific or politically-correct thing to do, but it certainly would have saved me a lot of blame, shame, and guilt. I recommend that each of you, if in an abusive relationship, assume the person who is abusing you (physically, emotionally, and/or sexually) to be a sociopath and get out, seek support, and try to put your life back together before it’s too late.
This is nothing to joke about. There may only be 1 in 25 people who are sociopaths (and that’s a low estimate, in my opinion), but there are far more people in our society afflicted with one or more of these equally relationship-destructive disorders of Cluster B. We prevent and seek early detection for diseases like cancer and heart disease. Shouldn’t we be preventing and seeking early detection of the potential mental health dangers of others who could, in turn, destroy our own mental health and ruin our lives completely?
*Antisocial vs. Asocial Behavior
One very important distinction needs clarified: antisocial behavior and asocial behavior are NOT the same thing and often misunderstood and erroneously defined by us lay people.
Antisocial behavior does not mean a person avoids social situations. On the contrary, folks who are antisocial participate to a high degree in social activities and use people and public situations in order to exploit or cause harm.
Asocial behavior is defined as an avoidance of social situations. People who are asocial reject or fear social situations, people, and events. These individuals are not charming, charismatic, or in search of attention.
To celebrate Mother’s Day weekend, Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath is available today and tomorrow for FREE! Download your copy today, gift it to a friend, and write a review (please). Help spread the word about sociopaths, narcissism, and domestic violence and abuse. Have a great weekend!