My (Unlucky) Valentine…
First, some notable facts:
One in 25 people is a sociopath. Only 20 percent of male and female prison inmates are sociopaths, although they are probably responsible for about half of all serious crimes committed. Most sociopaths are not incarcerated. In fact, the silent majority live freely, anonymously, holding down jobs, getting married, dating, having children. Most have a blazing smile. They are likeable, fun, exciting, and the perfect escort. All sustain eye contact. All have, what has been dubbed, “the predator stare.”
What follows are 13 true cases (one of them is a close friend’s). The 14tth is not a case but some helpful information.
Case #1 xoxoxo: The Lawyer
She was a successful attorney (trial law being a sociopath’s dream), law professor and a Sunday school teacher with a host of family and friends. But her interpersonal calculus centered on how to manipulate and outmaneuver the many people in her life. She was the middle child in a family with a violent father and an indifferent mother. Her father spent thousands of dollars on expensive hobbies, while she picked oranges from her backyard for her school lunches. She had a recurring dream that started in childhood: killing her father with her bare hands.
There was something thrilling about the thought. But, despite having imagined it many times, she quickly pointed out, “I’ve never slit anyone’s throat.”
She was a stellar student but never studied for a single exam. She was an excellent lawyer because she was a sociopath: cool under pressure, completely void of empathy (handy in such a dirty business), unaffected by fear. She had an uncanny ability to seduce others into confessing their vulnerabilities. This was part of her power. She liked to imagine she “ruined people.” When she dated she quickly lost interest but when they didn’t she found other uses for her lovers. “I know my heart is blacker and colder than most people’s; maybe that’s why it’s tempting to break theirs.”
“I may have a disorder, but I am not crazy. In a world filled with gloomy, mediocre nothings populating a go-nowhere race, people are attracted to exceptionalism like moths to a flame.” She had no remorse and a penchant for deceit. She was strategic and canny, intelligent and confident, but also struggled to react appropriately to other people’s confusing and emotion-driven social cues. She was not a victim of child abuse, not a murderer or a criminal. She never skulked behind prison walls; she preferred hers to be covered in ivy. She was a dangerous predator and she lived (lives) openly among us.
Case #2 xoxoxo: The Vampire
She directed others to lure men to her so she could stab them to death and drink their blood. She convinced her lover she survived “only” on blood and manipulated him into slicing his own veins four times so she could receive nourishment. Others under her spell said she “mentally restrained” them. She enjoyed “frightening people to death.” After her first kill she told police “I can still smell the river—it was really salty smelling—the smell of blood, the smell of metal that had been left to rust in the rain. And it was cold that night, very cold.” She confessed to the court psychologist that she was like “the shell of a volcano….you think nothing. Nothing goes through your mind. There is no emotion, just blind fury.”
Case #3 xoxoxo: The Couple on the Beach
He was charming, handsome, and seemed interested in everything she liked. After their first date it seemed they had known each other their whole lives. He had pet names for her, loved her friends, waited for her after classes, bragged about her as if she were a trophy, “look how pretty she is,” and complimented her as if he were rare art piece, “isn’t she beautiful,” he gushed. They enjoyed the same films, ordered the same meals and even shared the same exotic background (having both once lived overseas). When he proposed three months later, she told her mother, “I feel so lucky!”
On their honeymoon, he terrified her. Caught in a thunderstorm on a deserted beach, he laughed as she begged him to get on the last boat to safety. And when the waves crashed on the cliffs higher than a tall building and threatened to drown them both he stared at her coldly and told her to stop being such a baby.
In time, he grew even more distant and indifferent, snapping easily and suddenly into a darker personality that confused her. She suspected him of cheating but when she confronted him he accused her of being promiscuous. And when work required him to travel he thought nothing of going dancing with his boss, taking “day trips” with her to tourist attractions, going to the movies and sharing lobster dinners; when she suggested he was “dating” his boss, he became irate. When she finally divorced him she discovered his secret life—his multiple affairs, even another family. She learned why he had been passed up for several promotions—why he could never pass the psychological.
She learned she was married to a sociopath.
Case #4 xoxoxo: Monster
She was 32, a single mother, raising her toddler son. He was handsome, like a “character from a romance novel.” He smiled rakishly and there was an instant attraction between them. He was the perfect gentleman and she could not believe she had met someone so wonderful. Four days later he announced, “we’re going to be together.”
She was in heaven. He moved into her three-bedroom house; he adored her son. He poured her wine, bought her flowers and gave her CDs of love songs. He quoted romantic lines, his favorite from Jerry McGuire, “you complete me.” (Quoting films or lyrics is typical sociopathic behavior).
In time, the loving husband seemed distant, lovemaking mechanical. He stopped kissing (another red flag). And when she asked if he had found someone else, he exploded with rage. He blamed her. Soon she discovered other women he had and when confronted about them he was indifferent. Later, she discovered that her seemingly devoted husband had been on sex sites and had even created a fictitious profile.
After ten years, she realized she had married a monster.
Case #5 xoxoxo. American Psycho
They met one summer and seemed to have so much in common, most importantly, music. He was quick to tell her how beautiful she was, that no one understood him like she did. He told her secrets, including his depression. She would later discover he spent time in a mental hospital for extremely disturbed individuals.
He professed his love for her freely and easily. He put her on a pedestal. She was “the best thing that ever happened to him,” he said. He showered her daily, even hourly sometimes, with compliments. He “love bombed” her.
He was charming and funny and it was not difficult to fall in love with him. They moved in together just 4 months later.
The next Spring she discovered he was cheating on her and when she confronted him he ended their relationship….after beating her so severely he bruised her entire body.
Several months later, he returned, said he was “sorry”, “missed her”, “She was the One.” They got engaged a year later and several weeks before they married she discovered he’d been having cyber sex with women he found on Craigslist. They argued again, (these lasted hours, days even). If she left, he threatened to throw their cats off the balcony.
“You’re lucky,” he snarled. “I let you live to see 30.”
Case #6 xoxoxo: How to Spot a Sociopath
- He lies consistently.
- He acts impulsively: he spends little time weighing the pros and cons of a situation and never considers the consequences. He does things because he “feels like it.” He will change his plans often, and may even spend money from the joint account without accounting for the funds.
- He Shirks His Responsibilities: Obligations and commitments mean nothing to him. Their good intentions are promises written on the wind. Poor credit history, mounting child support, inability to hold a job and poor parenting are signs of a sociopath.
- He’s Violent At Times: he displays this in bursts and may be extremely remorseful afterwards and apologetic.
- He’s a Charmer: he is manipulative and cunning and often highly intelligent.
- He may lead a double life.
- He will reveal personal details about himself strategically; revelations of actual truth are rare.
- He will have cold indifference to one or more family members.
- A disconnect between what the sociopath says and does; he seems charitable but does not give money to homeless or vice versa
- He is….Ted Bundy.
Case #7 xoxoxo: They Met In A Laundromat
She met him in a Laundromat after a stormy and exhausting divorce. She’d seen him around the neighborhood and when they finally started to talk she felt as if she knew him. He was open and friendly and they hit it off right away. From the start she thought he was hilarious. They went to dinner and after dessert he was embarrassed to discover he’d forgotten his wallet. She was more than happy to pay for him, more than happy to sit through the double feature she had seen earlier in the week. At the pub, over drinks, he told her he was a translator for the United Nations. They saw each other four times that week, five the next. Soon, he moved in. It was against her nature, she wasn’t even sure how it happened. But she had been so lonely. Still, there were details, unexplained, undiscussed that she had shoved out of her mind. He never invited her to his home. She never met his friends. He stayed away for three days without so much as a phone call. When he finally resurfaced and she demanded to know “what happened” he told her to mind her own business….then quickly snapped back to his “old self.”
Excerpt, Without Conscience by Dr. Robert O. Hare.
Case #8 xoxoxo: Bob, The Sociopath
I can be whomever you want me to be, your best friend, most trusted confidante, man of your dreams. I will learn discreetly everything that you love or what makes you tick. And from there I will gradually build myself up. Love what you love and hate what you hate. Not too much as to make you feel that I’m patronizing you, but just enough diversity to make you feel that I am normal, that I am the right person. For you.
I will listen to you. To your most boring problems. To issues as mundane or as complicated as the world. And make you feel that I sympathize. I can make you feel like I am the only person you can trust and understand you.
To you I will always be perfect. But to me, you’re just one of the many opportunities for me to re-invent myself. I’ve lived hundreds of different lives. And I see my past acquaintances, friends and lovers, as one hit wonders.
One day they will interest me so much that I will be constantly thinking about them. Manipulating ways and tricks to reel them in. It never fails. It also helps that I take really good care of myself. I work out excessively everyday. Eat right. Of course I have vices, smoking and drinking. But those vices fall in shadows once I magnetize a person.
I can be the most charming, graceful, articulate man and turn into a laid-back hippie or country guy, depends on who I’m with. I have no real identity. Fascinating really, I get my self worth by being fake.
I read, study, work, converse with anyone from the most idiotic moron to the most intellectual people, men and women. And I always get away with it.
Problem is, when I get tired of someone, I move on. Disappear without a trace. And I hurt people that way. I know I do, but I feel no guilt. This is how I am, how I operate. I apologize and say sorry but I never feel sorry.
So when you meet anyone who seems too good to be true. A person of your dreams. Remember what I said here. It could save you a lot of heartaches.
Take it from me, I’m a sociopath.
Case #9 xoxoxo: He Had Another Family
She remembers what it was like to date him, a man who she met on the Internet. “He was just so charming and funny,” she says. “We could talk for hours, and laugh.” He was romantic, too—cuddly and affectionate. He sent her e-cards and brought her roses.
She worked as a government contractor and was impressed by her beau’s credentials—he was a federal government employee with a Department of Defense secret security clearance. He had a degree in mechanical engineering from the prestigious California Polytechnic State University and an MBA from the University of Washington, Seattle.
He told her he was a single father and had raised his two children since they were in diapers. But whe wanted to meet his children, he hesitated, told her “I want to take them into this slow; there has never been another woman in their life other than their mother,” he said, according to her. “When I think the time is right, I’ll invite you down.”
Once, when he called her from his home, she noticed the name on the caller ID—it was a woman’s. “Who is that?” she asked. He explained that he had a cousin stay with him to help take care of the kids. He asked her to get the phone put in, so the phone is actually in the name of his cousin.
After dating for two years, they got married—a courthouse ceremony in the Bahamas. Marriage, however, wasn’t the same as dating. “He was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” she says. “You never knew what his mood would be.”
If he was in a bad mood, she says, he claimed it was her fault. She says her husband accused her of being controlling and self-centered, telling her she never smiled and never talked. He told her that she did not make him and his children feel welcome in her home.
“He had my self-esteem to the point that I thought I was going to go nuts,” she says. “I was walking on eggshells in my own home.”
Although he contributed somewhat to household expenses, she was carrying most of the financial burden. She says her husband did, however, spend a lot of money on Ebay, buying “toys” such as diving, fishing, golf and windsurfing equipment.
They filed joint income tax returns. By the following summer, they had still not received their refund, and she called the Virginia Department of Taxation. She was told her state refund had been applied to a former tax lien against her husband and the woman from the caller ID. Then she called the IRS and learned her husband had filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy in California.
She then knew that the woman on the caller ID was not her husband’s cousin, but his wife.
Case #10 xoxoxo The ConMan
The man was a sympathetic listener. They both worked for the airlines—she was a flight attendant and he was a pilot. One day they were flying as extra crew—passengers—for a flight from Chicago to St. Lucia to Aruba and back to Chicago. She was facing personal difficulties—her son had been in a terrible car accident, and her marriage was faltering. During that long flight, she talked to him about her problems. He listened and offered words of encouragement.
A year later their flight paths crossed again. She was now divorced, and he asked for her phone number. Even though she lived near Chicago, Illinois and he lived 1,700 miles away near Seattle, Washington, they started seeing each other. After awhile, he would stay with her whenever his flights took him to Chicago. But they kept their relationship secret from their co-workers, because neither wanted to be stars of the company rumor mill.
Her divorce had been amicable, and she left her marriage with a mortgage-free townhouse and about $250,000 in cash. She knew she should invest the money for her future. But where should she put it? She made an appointment to see a financial planner. He had helped her get a good deal on a new car, so she asked him to accompany her.
The financial planner discussed all the usual options—stocks, bonds, mutual funds. But he had a better idea—they should invest her money in a business. They could offer sightseeing tours, via boat or plane, of the beautiful San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington state. He would be the tour guide. As a pilot he had many days off, days that he could use to ferry passengers around. She wouldn’t have to do anything except make an investment.
They started putting the plan into action. She paid for a new 21-foot Bayliner speedboat and a Cessna 172XP, a four-seat, single-engine airplane. They had the plane equipped with amphibious floats so it could make water landings. The total cost was $110,700. At first both were listed as owners of the plane. But she was concerned about personal liability if something went wrong, so she had the registration changed—he became the owner, and she had a secured interest in the plane.
Now that they had a boat and a plane, they established a corporation. All they needed to get the business going was a way to transport their customers from place to place while on the ground. She paid for a used conversion van.
She took responsibility for filing the business’ quarterly tax reports and for four consecutive quarters, she submitted forms that showed business income of exactly zero. She also discovered there was no proof anywhere that she had any right to the boat or plane. And soon, her partner disappeared….with all her money.
Case #11 xoxoxo: Happily Ever After
He showed up for his wedding with two broken hands. He said he’d dropped heavy equipment on them at work.
“We urged him to seek medical attention,” said the mother of the bride. “But he refused. His hands were so swollen that it was hard to fit the ring on his finger.”
She did not have a good feeling about this marriage. Her daughter was 21, vivacious and as beautiful as a Miss America contestant. She was working a full-time job at a title company and studying to be a nurse. They had been dating for less than a year, and she had only met her new son-in-law a few times. The most the mother could say about him was that he was clean cut, didn’t have any tattoos or body piercings, and had a full-time job. A week before the wedding, she found out that the groom was a high school dropout. Her daughter knew this, but hadn’t told her parents.
She had rented an apartment—against her parents’ wishes—and he had quickly moved in. The engagement was announced at Christmas.
“Why don’t you wait awhile?” the mother had asked her daughter.
She didn’t reply. She was strangely subdued during the wedding preparations—so unlike what the mother remembered about her own wedding. In fact, the groom was making all the plans, and bride wasn’t saying a word.
The next time the mother saw the newlyweds the groom had stitches in his fist—he said he was at a party, some guy slapped him on the back a little too hard, and he fell through a plate glass window. A few days later, the mother learned from her daughter that the police had been called to the home of the groom’s parents because of a family disturbance, but her daughter did not elaborate.
Shortly after the marriage, the bride started asking her parents about the savings account that they’d established for her when she was born. Although much of the money had been spent on college, $3,500 remained. Withdrawals required two signatures—from the daughter and her father. The mother suspected that the husband was urging his bride to get the money, so she and her husband refused to release it.
Several days later her daughter was dead.
Case #12 xoxoxo: Dating A Sociopath
“The person’s an opportunist. Agreements don’t mean anything.” –Dr. Anne Brown
Q: What would you say to a patient who you believe is in a relationship with a sociopath?
A: I can smell the bullshit. I can taste it. I can see it. So if you’re telling me, “He’s so great, I paid for dinner, he’s moving into my place, and I loaned him my car…” I’m going to be like, “Wait a minute. What about him taking care of you?” And then you’re going to say, “We had a date Wednesday night and he didn’t show up because he told me somebody had a flat tire…” and it’s going to be an outrageous story. And I’m going to say, “You can keep going, because he’s really got you. He’s charismatic, he’s telling you what you want to hear. You’re putting up with bad behavior, but you like him, he’s funny. The sex might be great, but I don’t think you can hang your hat on this.”
Case #13 xoxoxo: My Mother Married A Sociopath
My mother married a sociopath. She didn’t know it. No one knew it.
She was a 33-year-old widow with three young daughters to raise. She later met and married a decorated war hero, a lieutenant in the navy, a recipient of the Silver Star and Bronze Medal for his heroics as a fighter pilot during World War II and Korea. Almost 30 years later, his daughter learned he was an imposter. He was a two-bit conman with a shady and criminal past, impersonating a Naval Officer and collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in military benefits over the years. He was a textbook example of a sociopath.
He served in the navy for less than three years as an electrician first mate. He spent the rest of his time in a hospital for mental problems, where he got his hands on the paperwork to turn himself into a naval lieutenant.
He moved into her life, seemingly showing up with no background, family or friends of past. He was a mystery man introduced to his mother by a friend of a friend who met him at a racetrack and thought he was some kind of high roller. He wined her, dined her, took her on lavish vacations and showed her a world that she’d only heard about but never lived. This stranger was quickly accepted into our family and into our home with little questioning.
He was well liked and revered in his new community. He was a chameleon, easily adapting to any situation and fitting in. He was an accomplished pathological liar, spinning gold out of horse manure.
But a sociopath can’t keep up the charade forever. Small cracks began to appear. Stories he told don’t add up. Strange and scary men showed up at the house looking for him at odd hours. A late-night phone call claimed his son had been run over by a garbage truck. Checks were missing from my her mother’s checkbook, found after her account was overdrawn. Repossessed cars. Jewelry and clothing that had to be returned due to bad checks written for their purchase. Last-minute family vacations had the family scrambling to get packed and out with urgency. All, came with a plausible excuse. Everything, when he explained it, was believable.
Case #14 xoxoxo: How to Recover from a Sociopathic Relationship
- Find a therapist! You’ll need to learn to sort through the anger and grief and remember you can and likely will love again. Your sociopathic ex may have convinced you everything that went wrong in the relationship was your fault.
- Disappear from the sociopath’s life. No phone calls, no emails, no contact. The longer you are away from a sociopath the clearer it will become that he was lyig to you and the more grounded you’ll become in reality.
- Protect yourself physically. Change your locks, your phone number and install a security system. Create physical distance. It’s moving to another home if it allows you to fall asleep at night without fear.
- Document everything! Keep a journal, photograph injuries or property damage and file a police report. Save threatening voice mails, emails or letters. Hire an attorney and draw up a restraining order.
- Surround yourself with loving people. It can be easy to mistrust the world after being fooled by a sociopath.