When I put word out that I was planning a series on dating a sociopath, starting with my own story, I heard from numerous people who had done so. They’d moved on with their lives, learned a great deal and wished to weigh in.
Then I heard from a friend who I haven’t seen in a few years, whose story is quite different.
I’m currently in a relationship with sociopath/narcissist, she wrote. I’d love to help!
Wow. I asked if she could speak publicly and openly about her experience. Not all sociopaths are abusive, after all. I’d recently read about a neuroscientist who discovered, rather by accident, that he is a psychopath—and an overall good person. He’s what some call a pro-social psychopath; he’s chosen to lead by intellectual empathy.
So maybe, I thought, my friend and her guy were making it work! Maybe they’ve both embraced his diagnosis and she’d like to show us all another side of things.
But that isn’t the case at all.
My friend, who I will call Althea, is a perfect example of someone who is bright, accomplished and well aware of the toxicity of her relationship. And like so many, she’s felt unable to escape it.
She agreed to a Q&A, which I’d planned to simply learn from and quote on the air. Her answers were so honest and poignant, I asked if she would feel comfortable if I shared them on my blog.
Without hesitation, she said, Please do!
As you read the highlights of our chat below, please do so with the utmost compassion, knowing that Althea is one of the bravest women around for speaking openly about this. Then click the links below to listen to other women’s true stories, and a sex and marriage therapist’s message for Althea.
August: Tell me a bit about you.
Althea: I’ve been married for 5 years, currently separated. I’ve also been involved in an affair with a narcissist/sociopath for 2.5 years. I’m college-educated, a mom and have been successfully self-employed for13 years.
August: How did you meet the sociopath?
I met my narc (let’s just call him this for simplicity) at a bar we both frequent. He originally had eyes for my friend. She lost interest in him, because he’s married, and she wasn’t interested in getting involved as a mistress. He and I began flirting and after a few conversations things picked up.
We were both unhappy in our marriages and shared many of the same qualms. Looking back I see that he told me what I wanted to hear. If I said, ‘I miss doing things as a family’… He’d mirror me with, ‘I wish my wife would like to do things together—even if it is just walking around the mall.’ Whatever I lacked in my marriage, he lacked in his.
It’s like he could smell how vulnerable I was. I had never been involved outside my marriage. Getting involved with him emotionally and physically was a HUGE decision for me. — Althea
August: How did it shift from flirting to more?
Our first venture outside of bar-life was an arranged meeting at a local restaurant parking lot. I hopped in his car and we drove to a quiet place. I wasn’t sure what I expected, but I thought our first time would be more than a twenty minute rendezvous. That’s merely what it was.
I remember leaving him on a complete high, feeling super important—like this was a new experience for him, too, like he understood me…as if this was something special for both of us.
August: Do you consider the two of you a couple?
As I said, this affair has been going on for 2.5 years. It has been a romantic/sexual relationship, sans commitment labels for most of it. I guess I felt like I was with him because he is incredibly jealous and possessive. I learned the hard way that should not be mistaken for loyalty. When the relationship amped up, we agreed to exclusivity, then I found out he was still schmoozing other women.
This schmoozing I speak of is important, because it is a key part of what makes him the narc that he is. He managed to maintain having another girlfriend while seeing me for the majority of our relationship. In the meantime, he had other women he was getting something from sexually and emotionally on the side. It’s like a revolving door with him.
August: Wow. So he really relies on superficial charm sociopaths are known for.
He is very personable and outgoing and a fun person to be with. High energy, charismatic and yes, charming. He makes you feel important. Everyone loves him because he gets to know you and says hello the next time you see him. He really is everyone’s buddy.
He’s also successful, and literally a millionaire. He’s very generous with his money when we’re out together. He lives in a beautiful community with his trophy wife and lives up to ‘suburban standards’ of life. He doesn’t rob banks or start brawls. He’s very well put together. No big rap sheet for him.
August: When did you realize that he’s on the sociopath spectrum?
When I became aware of his girlfriend and side chick and his audacity to juggle all three of us in the same bar. He literally has no conscience. He lied to every one of us, told us all a different story. Different tall tales. But at the end of the day, he chose the girlfriend.
She became aware of me and the other side chick… He (being found out) within a matter of minutes turned from nice guy to crazy and deranged. Telling me to tell the girlfriend I’m no one…that he’d kill me, my husband and my son. Screaming obscenities and calling me names. That would be the turning point for me.
August: Do you think he’s capable of love?
I think there are degrees of narcissism and sociopathy. I don’t see my narc as being full blown loony but he certainly relates to people differently. I think he feels love for his daughter and maybe his mother and father, but with women… I think it doesn’t go past a general care for another human. If he’s too busy to be bothered then he brushes you aside. If it’s good for him, then he’s there. It’s all about the control for him. I learned the hard way to not mistake his possessiveness and control for love. It’s easy to do.
August: Now that you’ve seen his true colors, what are the biggest challenges?
I always question his sincerity. I always wonder what he’s lying about, what he’s manipulating. I live waiting for his next blow up when I don’t appease him. He’s incredibly emotionally and verbally abusive. He has called me crazy, whack job, psycho, whore… He shuts me down when I’m hurting. He tries to intimidate me—i.e., texting ‘I’m driving by your place to see who u have over.’ Accuses me of being with other men when I’m sleeping. Literally makes me feel like I’m losing my mind. Saying he saw me with someone when really I was at home or saying he saw texts that don’t exist. It’s crazy-making.
August: Does his personality/disorder affect your sexual relationship?
100%. I never feel safe. I worry about my sexual health because he is sleeping around, which in turn makes me think about the other women I have to share him with. It creates an immense emotional block for me.
Also, he is incredibly selfish in bed. This may be TMI, but he often treats me like his sex toy. I’m there to give head or he just tells me to play with myself. He doesn’t want to do any work. He wants his women to serve him. I don’t enjoy the sex very often and rarely orgasm. One would think with his grandiose ego that he’d be a giver—a show off of his sexual prowess. Hardly.
August: What do you think he’d say if he knew you were discussing this?
He would not be happy. He doesn’t see himself as a narc or sociopath, when he is 100% full blown, certified. In fact, he calls me a narc! He wouldn’t like me tarnishing his image or pulling his mask away. He still has the wool pulled over many others’ eyes.
If he knew, I would get a lot of backlash. I’m sure my phone would be blown up and I would be called names and threatened. That’s his MO. Intimidate.
August: Then why are you sharing? Thank you, by the way. You’re very brave.
Althea: I felt very compelled to share my story because he has literally changed my life. Drastically. I’ve almost lost my life over him. Yet, here I am… Still allowing this man in my life and controlling my emotions. I know I will survive and make it out. In fact writing this I was thinking, What am I doing? He’s damaged so much of me and many of my relationships with others.
Thank YOU for putting this out there for people to learn about. Most people wouldn’t know they were getting involved with a narc until it’s too late. I think awareness is an amazing tool.
August: I know some people will hear your story and wonder, ‘Why the heck is she with him? Just leave!’ I know it’s not that simple.
This is by far has been the biggest mind f*ck of a relationship, and the hardest to end. He has me feeling dependent upon his approval. I’ve lost my sense of self. I’ve heard of trauma-bonding and I believe in it. I think I go back to that comfort of the familiar abuse. It’s a rush. A drug. He’s literally my drug.
How in the world do you move on and recover? How do you heal? No contact seems obvious, but he doesn’t go away. He’s so persistent. He calls from unknowns. I fear he will show up at my home. I worry about what he will do if I cut him off. Even worse, I’m so weak. I give in and go back to this head spinning cycle of being lied to and me feeling insecure and unbalanced. I literally have lost my strength. I’ve always prided myself in being strong, outspoken, and feisty but now I’m weak and broken and a little scared.
To hear Dr. Megan’s answers Althea’s questions, and two bold women’s stories of healing after narcissist/sociopath abuse, listen to the latest on Girl Boner Radio. To listen on iTunes, click here.
On Wednesday, I’ll continue this series on my show with an interview with marriage and family therapist Dr. Wendy O’Connor.
What encouraging words would you like to offer Althea? If you’ve gotten out of a similar relationship, what most helped you? As always, I welcome your respectful thoughts in the comments below.
Althea, we’re cheering for you. ♥
Jenny Hansen says
August, I’m sad to see Althea doing this to herself. She has all the power here, even though it sounds like she’s too beaten down to see that. I feel for her, and will listen to hear what the therapist had to say.
August McLaughlin says
Thanks, Jenny. Abusive sociopaths are way too skilled at the beating down you mentioned. I remember feeling powerless when I was in a similar situation.
I really believe Althea will find her way and heal fully — seems to me she’s starting to believe that’s possible, too.
Jenny Hansen says
I hear you, August. Remember, my dad is one of these, so I’ve seen it all my life. Setting healthy boundaries can help ANYONE to love their own beautiful selves.
August McLaughlin says
Stellar point, Jenny. And you’re a prime example of someone who’s learned to thrive, in spite of these issues.
I have to say I am deeply impressed by Atheas’ story. I’d like to encourage her to find herself and her self-confidence again. She seems to be a strong woman being able to end this misery. I as well would like to thank her for her to speak so openly about what she’s been going through. This might be an excellent way to warn other women to make similar experiences. Thank you.
August McLaughlin says
Thank you, Aurora. I’ve been moved by her courage and openness, too. I know your words will mean a great deal to her!
Reblogged this on Velda Brotherton and commented:
This has an adult warning on it, but is so important for women to read. August McLaughlin pulls no punches.
Althea, no one will truly understand, but you (even when you try to explain it), why you’re in the relationship. No one can know, unless they’ve lived (or are living) through it…and even then it’s their story and not yours.
People are for you. I am for you. And I think you are so brave to talk about it. Thank you
August McLaughlin says
Beautifully said, Amy. Thank you!
Sounds like a love addiction. I read several books on this years ago when trying to help my loved one. Like I said, it’s a vicious cycle, and the “victim” wants to believe his lies, lives in fear, and the guy is quite skilled at manipulating and controlling once he gets a woman under his spell.
We’re cheering for you, Althea, to break free of this guy once and for all. I’m interested to hear what advice the professionals give you. Remember that you’re dealing with an addiction. Getting counseling will help empower you to break away and find yourself again, and you’ll be all the stronger for it. Thanks for sharing your story. Praying for you, girl. You’re stronger than you think. If you weren’t, you never would have been able to speak up here!
August McLaughlin says
Wonderful insight, Lynn. Thanks so much! The cycle really is vicious, and you’re so right about the addictive nature.
Melanie Tonia Evans, the Narc abuse recovery expert who helped saved my life has a free example of Quanta Freedom Healing on youtube or a free webinar on June 2. Link –
When you’ve had enough of the pain you’ll act, until then people remain hooked in. I’ve done the journey and my life has expanded so much you can’t even imagine!!!!
Catie Rhodes says
Gosh, what a heartbreaking story. Althea, you *can* get away from this person. Do it without shame and before he wastes any more of your life. Because he is wasting your life, robbing you of any happiness you might otherwise have. If you need to change your phone number(s), your address–whatever–do it. It’s worth whatever you lose by taking the plunge.
I mentioned shame because I once found myself in a destructive relationship that shared elements with the one you’ve talked about here (but was not nearly as bad). I was (oddly) ashamed to end the relationship. Even now, many, many years later, I can’t articulate why I felt ashamed, but I did. Shame probably kept me in this relationship a full year after I realized I this man was slowly sucking the life out of me. So, if it’s shame keeping you in the relationship, you’re not alone in this feeling and you can overcome it.
I’ll keep you in my thoughts. Love and hugs.
Beth Carter says
What a sad, compelling story. I wish it were a story and not true but I know these men exist. I feel for Aletha and wish she would get out NOW. He sounds dangerous. I agree with another commenter who said change your phone number. Surely, there’s someone you can move in with or hire a security guard or get protection from this jerk.
I, too, was in a horrible relationship with a college professor for three years. I prayed for help getting out of it, broke up with him for about the third time, and met a wonderful guy the next day! We dated for six years and he asked me to marry him. There are good men out there. You deserve one. The professor emotionally beat me down, too, and my family hated him. I couldn’t see how low I was at the time. Btw, I’m killing him off in a novel soon! Best of luck to you. Be safe and strong! I’ll be thinking about you.
Move away, FAR AWAY!! I’ve dated a narcissist before and the best way to end it is tell him off and move 1800 miles away. I did and it helped me break away from a very selfish man who only cared about his needs and felt nothing for me. He was a control freak and it was always about him. You can do it! Be strong and realize your self worth – you deserve the BEST and he doesn’t deserve you!! Next time he calls or texts, ignore them. And meanwhile start planning your move!