Let’s be honest. Television and Internet media are replete with stories about missing or deceased women and sociopathic men. Either there are more sociopaths in the world or the media is covering it more. Either way, it’s unsettling, especially to single women.
Single women (especially previously-married ones) are prime pickin’s for married men and sociopaths. As a not-unattractive female who’s divorced, and a person who minored in psychology and earned two degrees, I have gathered enough education and personal experience to know what I’m saying is true. And as a former counselor, counseling mostly females, I’ve heard enough stories to fill a book.
Just in case you’re thinking, “Hey, wait! Not all married men are sociopaths!” let me concur. But do you know which ones are? That is the point of this article! What is a sociopath?
Using the official diagnostic version from The DSM-IV-TR® and The American Journal of Psychiatry (diagnostic manuals) and my own training and experience, here’s some help in understanding the sociopath.
- Essentially, a sociopath will glibly lie, charm and use others, without a moment’s remorse over hurting anyone.
- They’re often, but not always, more charismatic, charming and sexy than the average person.
- Sociopaths can feign every kind of emotion; yet they know only “feral” [wild, savage, deadly] pleasures.
- Sociopaths find rewards in the hunt.
- Their joys are in conquest and in winning.
- They understand love, know how to manipulate it, but can notfeel either love or empathy.
- They have a Grandiose Sense of Self.
They feel entitled to certain things as “their right.”
- Shallow Emotions are all they have!
When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. They are outraged by insignificant matters, yet remain unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises!
- Manipulative and Conning, oh yeah!
They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may eventually dominate and humiliate their victims.
When I think “sociopath” I think of Ted Bundy and Scott Peterson; however, not all sociopaths are murderers! I had decades of close exposure to a sociopath who destroyed everyone who cared about him, and there’s not a hint of remorse in his behavior, attitude, or conversation. As a matter of interest, this particular person talks like he has been victimized by everyone in his life! Each woman he has had a relationship with in the last seven years has eventually tired of his bid for pity and his hair-trigger temper and each one has exited rapidly.
The problem with honest, decent people is that we don’t expect others to be dangerous or predatory.Since we don’t expect it, we don’t see it even when it’s right in front of us. So let’s talk about the weaknesses of lonely, trusting, unmarried women.
In case you’re thinking, “What does this have to do with my life?” here’s an example. Let’s say you, like me, are a Christian woman who has met a man who professes to also be a Christian. Here are some questions you can ask yourself, as I have:
- Have I lost my in-loveness with God? Juggling all the demands of parenting, job, maintaining a house, a yard, and possibly a pet can leave a woman emotionally depleted. Meeting that charming “Christian” who makes me feel like a woman again is mighty tempting! Do I find myself assuming that the answer lay in some man, some adventure, or some emotional “rush”? Am I so needy that I am now vulnerable?
- Is he doing the hard work of healing, or does he wear his hurt like a badge? Do I ever get the sense that he has submitted his life and will to God? Has he forgiven those who hurt him? Are there any signs that he is learning or growing, or is he constantly playing for my pity?
- Am I more interested in romance than relationship? Does this man appear to be my ideal, my fantasy, my answer to an inner craving for attention? Am I tempted to chuck reality in favor of feeling flirty, experiencing intense passion, and escaping from the mundane, ordinariness of life?
- Although I feel desired, do I feel affirmed, valued and honored? In short, are my dreams less important to him than my body? Does he affirm my dreams and treasure my personhood – all that I am, with my shadow side, imperfections and ordinariness?
- Am I more attracted to his persona than to his character? Yes, he’s funny, charming, intelligent, and successful. And his moves! Oh, my goodness! It’s hard to forget those moves, and it seems to be dominating my thinking. Is who I am getting lost in this frenetic high?
- Is he living up to his commitments or making promises he doesn’t keep? Is he doingjust enough to earn my trust, so that when my suspicions are raised, I feel foolish pressing for answers?
- Do I feel free to voice my questions? Has he given me his home address or phone number? Can he meet me for real dates, or only for an hour and always before an “important meeting”? Does he take me only to lunch, but never to dinner? Does he return cell phone calls any time, even on the weekends? Does he give me excuses for not being available on holidays, like, “I’m visiting my 85 year old mother out-of-state.”?
- Does my “gut” know something is off? If so, have I called the church he attends to see if his recent address still lists him as married? Have I checked for the divorce record at the county clerk building? Have I questioned others about his singleness?
- Do I feel I’m losing my dignity? Little things add up: Do I feel “less than” when he leaves? Do I find self-doubt increasing inside myself? Does he have a cute little way of belittling me in front of others? Are his jokes derisive of women?
If you ask yourself these questions and your “gut” is telling you something is not right, do as I have done: run as fast as you can in the opposite direction! Yes, we are luckier than those women who have been murdered by sociopaths; however, may I remind you that there are many forms of death? A man who kills my spirit, robs me of my dignity and my will to live is just as dangerous, in my book! And if I marry him? Well, I don’t think I have to spell out that one!
If you’d like to learn more about the traits of sociopaths, written in simple layman language, I recommend The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, PhD (a psychotherapist with a knack for writing great books).
Dr. Stout says that as many as 4% of the population are conscienceless sociopaths who have no empathy or affectionate feelings for humans or animals. [Other sources say one in 5 of our population are sociopaths.] As Dr. Stout (The Myth of Sanity) explains, a sociopath is defined as someone who displays at least three of fifteen distinguishing characteristics, such as
- impulsivity and
- a lack of remorse.
Such people often have a superficial charm, which they exercise ruthlessly in order to get what they want.
Dr Stout offers these guidelines for your protection:
• In a contest between your instincts and what is implied by the role a person has taken on—as educator, doctor, boss—go with your instincts!
• When considering a new relationship of any kind, practice the rule of threes: one lie, one broken promise, one neglected responsibility may be a misunderstanding. Three says you’re dealing with a liar, and deceit is the linchpin of conscience-less behavior. Do not give your money, your work, your secrets or your affections to a three-timer!
• Suspect flattery. It is the material of counterfeit charm and nearly always involves an intention to manipulate.
• If necessary, redefine your concept of respect. Do not mistake your fear, anxiety or awe for respect. Respect should be reserved for those who are strong, kind and morally courageous.
• Remember what is really important: protecting yourself. You may never be able to make your friends or family understand why you are avoiding a particular person. Avoid him anyway.
• Question your tendency to pity too easily. Pity should be reserved for innocent people, not those who actively campaign for your sympathy. [Have you heard of codependency?]
• Challenge your need to be polite in all circumstances. Do not be afraid to be unsmiling and calmly to the point.
(Compiled from The Sociopath Next Door ©2005 Random House/Broadway Books)
Girls, the bottom line is be self-aware and self-protective. And above all, don’t expect any man to fill all your needs. That only makes you more vulnerable to the unscrupulous men out there. Have a wide circle of friends, stay involved in church and other group activities, and don’t forget Who you can trust the most. Don’t lose touch with Him! I know, from experience, He will protect you.
©2007 April Lorier