Surviving a Sociopath
It doesn't matter how old you are, how smart you are, where you come from, or what you do for a living. Anyone, anywhere, can become the victim of a sociopath. Actually, when a sociopath is involved, it's more likely you are a target.
What is a Sociopath?
The definition of a sociopath varies depending upon where you look and what expert you prefer. Sociopath is usually interchangeable with psychopath, anti-social personality disorder, and a few others. The DSM-IV Definition states that "antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a lack of regard for the moral or legal standards in the local culture. There is a marked inability to get along with others or abide by societal rules." There is a long list of diagnostic criteria, which I will not entirely list here.
Basically a sociopath has no moral compass or conscience. They are able to assimilate and charm or persuade even those with the keenest of eye. They are impulsive, reckless, talk in circles, compulsively lie about anything and everything, have a tendency toward criminal behavior, have a spotty work history, exhibit a sense of entitlement, are financially irresponsible and will often leave others financially devastated, and do not experience remorse or guilt. Most telling is their absolute need to win, no matter who they hurt in the process. They thrive on bringing others down to their level, even making them accomplices to their behavior when they can.
Are You Involved With a Sociopath?
Most of the time you don't even know you are involved with a sociopath until it's too late. What that means is you have probably lost a sense of yourself because of the covert craziness that the sociopath intentionally creates. You may even sometimes believe that it's your fault. You may be too embarrassed to talk to anyone about it because you "should have known better". You may be so devastated, or afraid, or tired, or intimidated, or angry, or lost, or any number of other things that you are just too paralyzed to try to figure it out.
Some things that might be a huge red flag are your finances. Did this person sweep into your life and create massive debt or destruction? Did this person seem so charming and 'perfect' when you first started dating? Did this person learn all of your deepest insecurities and now exploits them or uses them to harm you? Did this person slowly work themselves into a place of dominance in the relationship? Does this person compulsively lie about anything and then make you feel like you are crazy when you confront the lie? Do you feel afraid but can't quite define why? Do you feel stalked, or are you outright being stalked? Has this person harmed you or your children? Do you feel the need to protect others who come into contact with this person, knowing what they are in for if they trust him/her? Have you watched the scam/con process take place over and over again? Are you embarrassed to be involved with this person yet can't find a way out? The list goes on and on but by now you will recognize yourself if you are involved with a sociopath.
How do You Survive?
This is the toughest question to answer, particularly if you have children with a sociopath. The best way to survive is to flee the relationship as soon as you have the first inkling that something isn't right. If it's too late for that, you have a few options. You can simply stop responding to the drama and the chaos. It is hard and excruciating to be able to get to a place of inner peace and not allow the negative to affect you. In fact, I don't know if I could get there, I haven't been able to so far.
Another option is to become like a detective and try to stay one step ahead. This is difficult and exhausting and not recommended. If you have been involved or around a sociopath for a long time, you begin to see the patterns and can preempt some things, but again, this will eventually wreak havoc on your own sanity and health so I don't recommend it.
The third option, particularly if there are children involved, is to seek legal assistance with someone experienced; take the emotion out of it and separate yourself physically as much as possible. This is not easy and the legal system is not a friend in most cases. In fact, a whole article could be written on how to deal with the legal system in these situations (maybe I'll have the energy for that one soon). Many women (there are men who are in this situation as well, I do recognize that) who end up fighting for their lives and the lives of their children simply cannot afford a strong and experienced attorney to help or just can't explain the daily stress and trauma of living with a sociopath. Even if the sociopath is not in the same home, they might as well be, in most cases.
It's easy to become discouraged, paralyzed, unhealthy, depressed, etc., but that's all the more reason to reach out to any family that is still associated with you, any other people that have gone through the same experiences, any agency or legal entity that is willing to listen and help. DON'T give up and do protect your children as much as you are able.
I know this does not give you concrete answers or maybe even any hope, but I do understand and I will respond to any comments.
***Legal disclaimer - I am not a psychiatrist or legal representative. I do not claim to be an expert, nor am I giving any advice. I am simply a human being in a situation, trying to have empathy for others in similar situations.***