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Is Your Spouse a Psychopath? Do's and Don’ts When Divorcing

divorce Jun 14, 2016

By Lisa Brick


There are numerous reasons a relationship unravels.  The majority of them are due to a growing incompatibility of values and lifestyle choices.  In some cases, the reason is considerably deeper and darker.  While these reasons are the exceptions rather than the rule, they are often if not always the cause of the most painful, emotionally devastating, and contentious divorces.  In this article, I will discuss aspects of being married to a physically nonviolent psychopath.  

“I knew in my heart something was wrong with him (or with her)”. This is what nearly every victim of a psychopath has felt, usually early on in the relationship. The over-the-top flattery. The quick pace of the relationship and demands for instant commitment. The lies and inconsistencies. The callousness towards others. The disregard for social norms. The sense of superiority (absolute narcissism), without having much to show for it or justify it. The aimlessness and lack of responsibility. The random oscillations in mood and behavior, to exert power over others. The demands for isolation from loved ones and friends. The sexual deviancy. The control and possessiveness. There are always very disturbing signs in the psychopathic bond, signs that we tend to ignore or rationalize until the toxic relationship, like a disease, take over to destroy our lives.”   Click here to learn more about psychopaths.

Unlike the image of Hollywood psychopaths with which many of us have a familiarity, like Norman Bates (Psycho 1960) or Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs 1991) who are actually conglomerates of antisocial personality disorders combined with criminality,  the psychopath you  or I are most likely to interact with or marry is a borderline psychopath who has the capacity to be quite charming and successful in achieving what he/she wants within the framework of the American legal system.

It is thought that 5-15% of the population in the United States of America fit into the category of borderline psychopaths.  These folks often live in your neighborhood, are co-workers, ride the subway with you, teach your children in school, and you will never know his/her true nature...unless he/she wants something from you and initiates a relationship.

The characteristics of a psychopath according to Hervey Cleckley, a pioneering psychiatrist in the 20th century who did groundbreaking work on personality disorders, are:

  1. Considerable superficial charm and average or above average intelligence.
  2. Absence of delusion and other signs of irrational thinking.
  3. Unreliability, disregard for obligations, no sense of responsibility in matters of little or great importance.  
  4. Untruthfulness and insincerity.
  5. Antisocial behavior which is inadequately motivated and poorly planned, seeming to stem from an inexplicable impulsiveness.
  6. Poor judgment and failure to learn from experience
  7. Pathological egocentricity.  Total self-centeredness and an incapacity for real love and attachment.  
  8. General poverty of deep and lasting emotions.
  9. Lack of any true insight; inability to see oneself as others do.
  10. Ingratitude for any special considerations, kindness and trust.
  11. Fantastic and objectionable behavior, after drinking and sometimes even when not drinking. Vulgarity, rudeness, quick mood shifts, pranks for facile entertainment.
  12. No history of genuine suicide attempts.
  13. An impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated sex life.
  14. Failure to have a life plan and to live in any ordered way  (unless it is for destructive purposes or a sham).

It is easy to fall in love with a psychopath.  It's hard, yet possible with help and strategic planning,  to get away from one.

Psychopaths present as charming, smooth, engaging, and very interested in every facet of who you are and what you care about.  

Unbeknownst to the object of a psychopath, he/she is simulating empathy to better understand that person's dreams and vulnerabilities for the purposes of manipulation.  

These individuals are completely confident in themselves and their capabilities and do not question their judgments or opinions.  They are adventurous and exciting, always seeking new experiences to stave off boredom, thereby appearing dynamic.  

Psychopaths are so excellent at deceiving and manipulating others that there is a tendency for the people they turn their attention to doubt themselves before they will doubt the psychopath, regardless of undeniable proof of the deception.  

Although they talk a good talk they are actually incapable of compassion or empathy and therefore do not experience remorse or regret when they hurt others.  

Ultimately, once a psychopath has captured a person in their domain they drop the outward charm and pretense at caring and exhibit hostility, anger, resentment, disdain, aggression, and verbally abuse others.  

To the outside world, the psychopath continues to appear charming, smooth, engaging, and intelligent, isolating their partner in a nightmare world that only they experience.  

If you find yourself utterly stripped of joy and miserable in your marriage and recognize many characteristics of your spouse in this article there is no sense in sharing this information with him/her.  He knows who he is and how he functions.  He hasn’t been confused about who he is.  He has been busy keeping you as confused as to who YOU are as possible.

Your best course of action:

Share this information with someone who you trust, and who you can strategize with on how you can break free of your situation.  

Seek out the help and support of a mental health practitioner.  Ask that mental health practitioner which attorneys in your area have been successful in getting fair settlements when there is a psychopath involved.  

Speak to a certified divorce financial consultant to find out what you will need to determine a fair financial settlement.  

Do all this without your spouse’s knowledge.  

When you have all of the information and resources you need to exit this unhealthy relationship, and only then, implement your plan.  

It is tremendously challenging to break away from a psychopath.  It is absolutely necessary to break away for your psychological survival.  

For those of you who recognize that you may be living with a borderline psychopath there are certain aspects of your relationship, you must become aware of for you to remove yourself in the healthiest manner possible.

The first is recognizing that you are with someone who has a serious and destructive antisocial personality disorder.  

Your spouse does not and will not develop the capacity to be a different type of human being than he presents as NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO OR WHO YOU ARE.  

His issues are not about you although he will tell you they are.  Regardless of how much money you make, how you look, how talented, intelligent or charming you are he is INCAPABLE of love, appreciation, or approval of you or anyone else.

A psychopath will only use you or someone else to get his needs met.  His brain is genetically wired to work the way it works.  You can not change it nor can he. No one will ever matter to him beyond what he wants from him/her.   
The second is that your spouse is not like you.  He does not have the same emotional capabilities that you do.  He is not willfully withholding something in his capacity to give.  

The third is that no matter what you believe, you are not responsible for your spouse’s antisocial, irrational, and cruel behavior towards you or your children.  You are responsible for your behavior, not your spouse's.  You would be better served to focus on yourself and your children and discovering how to meet your needs. If you allow your fear to paralyze you-you will perpetuate your misery.  

A few vital steps to healing from your relationship with a psychopath are to understand what drew you toward him, how you lost yourself in the relationship and what steps you can take to find your voice, feel empowered and recreate the next chapter of your life.  Grab a Lifeline Coaching Session with us and get started right away.  The first session is on the house!


Lisa Brick, Journey Beyond Partner

Lisa Brick
Our team of coaches at JBD is passionate about helping men and women navigate the emotional difficulties of relationships, breakups and divorce. We work together with you to open the possibility that your current relationship challenges can lead to a rewarding voyage of self-discovery and an immensely more pleasing life experience. Together we create a path to clarity. Find out if Coaching is right for you, and accept my gift of one FREE session.

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