Five signs you are in a relationship with a sociopath
Many years ago, I worked in California with a young woman who had moved from El Paso, Texas. She was dating a man who was head over heels in love with her. He often visited her in the office and brought her flowers. After a while, the couple married and were blessed with a beautiful daughter. I switched jobs and moved on. However, several years later, I ran into the young lady. I asked her about her family. “I am raising my daughter alone,” she told me, “My ex-husband became violent and a cheater.” I was baffled by the turn of events. I wondered if her ex-husband’s behavior could have been detected earlier. How did a gentle, loving, and romantic man turn into a monster?
Sociopathy is a mental health disorder that features a sheer disregard for other people. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Disorders (DSM-V) defines a sociopath as someone who has “an inflated sense of self.” He acts like he is God’s gift to the world and feels no qualms boasting about his talents, accomplishments, sexual prowess, and physical attractiveness. Dr. Martha Stout, the author of The Sociopath Next Door, wrote that 4 percent of the population can be characterized as conscienceless sociopaths, or one in every 25 people. While there are female sociopaths, men are three times more likely to be one. It is likely that you know a sociopath: a lover, neighbor, or a boss. The following are typical signs of a sociopath.
1. Charm and Charisma
The first time a woman meets a sociopath, she is struck by his charm, wit, friendliness, helpfulness, and attention to detail. A sociopath targets his victim with almost surgical precision. He showers her with gifts, flowers, and, most of all, undivided attention. Phone calls, text messages, and emails pour down like rain. The victim feels flattered by the careful, calibrated excess of attention she is suddenly experiencing. However, she may also feel suffocated by loss of space or quality time for her family and friends. A sociopath wants the woman to spend all her time with him and, in the process, makes her the center of his attention, indeed, the focus of his universe.
According to Dr. Stout the danger is, “once the surface charm is scraped off, [a sociopath’s] marriage is loveless, one-sided, and almost always short-term. If a marriage partner has any value to the sociopath, it is because the partner is viewed as a possession, one that the sociopath may feel angry to lose, but never sad or accountable.”
A sociopath is a master of disguise and can concoct a manufactured love, and fake emotions. He can easily walk away without showing any emotion or feeling an ounce of guilt. The victim, who has put so much time and effort into the relationship, finds herself dazed, bewildered, hurt, and anguished.
2. Lack of Empathy
Empathy is putting yourself with someone’s shoes and understanding how that person feels. A sociopath lacks empathy, or the ability to feel remorse. A sociopath does not feel bad about the emotional pain he inflicts on his lover. He can stay clinically detached and, hence, loses no sleep over his lover’s emotional torment. It is she who is stressed about the relationship, not him.
3. Jealousy and Paranoia
Among the signs of a sociopath is likely to exhibit are jealousy and a sense of paranoia. He is suspicious and jealous of other people in her life. Past relations are zealously scrutinized and, if possible, used against her. A sociopath is more likely to accuse his partner of cheating, when perhaps he is the guilty party. The woman finds that she is constantly defending herself from false accusations.
A sociopath reveals little about himself even though he talks incessantly about various subjects. He has no connection with his past and maintains superficial friendships. A partner is not likely to meet someone important in his past or witness his family members visit him or interact with him in any meaningful way. Some sociopaths conceal a significant portion of their lives for fear they may expose their dark past. Moreover, they do not like exposure and tend to ask their lovers not to share too much about them.
As an example, one married man in California concealed from his wife he had another woman and five children back in Africa. When his wife became suspicious of the hundreds of dollars he was sending every month allegedly to his “mother,” his secret was exposed.
Sociopaths are pathological liars. When confronted, they tend to change the subject, blame others for their deception, or get angry and instead highlight others’ shortcomings. It is a habit to deflect blame. A sociopath does not own up to his mistakes and takes no responsibility for his actions. This is because he does not believe he has done anything wrong—it is his partner who is at fault.
One man offered to add his fiancé to his cell phone plan. What seemed an act of generosity to her turned into a ploy to spy on her activities. When she told him she was leaving his plan, he was flabbergasted and accused her of cheating on him. He bellowed, “What are you hiding from me?”
A sociopath has a list of phrases he likes to use, as compiled by Paula Carrasquillo, author of Escaping from the Boy: My life with a sociopath:
1. “You are the love of my life.”
2. “I have never known anyone like you.”
3. “You are perfect for me.”
4. “I never want to leave your side.”
5. “You are the most beautiful person I have ever met.”
6. “We are perfect for each other.”
7. “You are exactly what I have been looking for my entire life.”
The Way Out
One big mistake many women make is they believe that a sociopath will change. A sociopath is not capable of change nor does he have the motivation to change. He is in the relationship for personal gain, and she is clearly his most precious possession. Mary Jo Buttafucoo, now Mary Jo Connery, knew better when her chronically philandering husband cheated on her with a teen and the young girl shot Mary Jo in the face. When asked why it took her so long to leave her duplicitous husband, Mary Jo said, “I stuck it out during the bad times because the good times were fantastic.”
Therefore, how does a woman extricate herself from a relationship with a sociopath?
1. Seek professional help. A sociopath inflicts so much pain on his victim that she finds herself at the edge of the cliff, whether it is emotional turmoil, low self-esteem, or financial ruin. A professional will help you deal with these issues and guide you to overcome the emotional roller coaster you may experience.
2. Disassociate yourself with anything that connects you with the sociopath. No phone calls, texts, emails, or any physical contact. There is nothing beneficial that comes from staying in contact with him. In the beginning, it will be painful to cut yourself off from him, but the farther you stay away from him the better. A sociopath may disappear from your life, but he is more likely to reappear and pursue you vigorously.
3. Change your phone, if possible, and make sure to take necessary security precautions. The sociopath may pursue you after you separate from him and even electronically monitor your activities. One woman found her cell phone bugged and her email account hacked many years after her divorce. Unfortunately, police were not willing to investigate the matter and she had to fend for herself.
4. Surround yourself with people who care about you and love you. Your family can provide moral support, as can your close friends.
Removing yourself from a relationship with a sociopath can be difficult, but it is better for your physical and emotional health in the long run. If you are in a relationship with a sociopath, get out, seek help, and eventually you will find peace and safety in your life.
Hassan M. Abukar is a Sahan Journal contributor and the author of Mogadishu Memoir. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.