Standing with a Sociopath

My sociopathic ex and I meet monthly with a psychologist. The Guardian ad litem for our three children ordered us to do this after my ex filed for full custody of our two boys last year. So we’ve met with this psychologist maybe 6 times now, and neither of us had ever met him before our first meeting. All he knew about us in advance is that we’re a “high conflict” couple, and he decided that the best thing he can do for our family is to help us get along.

He’s also trying to help us settle on an agreement that doesn’t entirely eliminate my parenting time or rights. And I appreciate that.

Therapy with a Sociopath

What’s it like? It’s not that bad, really, compared to all the other things I’ve endured with this particular sociopath over the years. Basically, we sit in two chairs facing each other with a little table between us. The psychologist sits off to the side and guides us. He makes us talk to each other and look directly at one another instead of at him, and we have to call each other by name instead of saying something like, “she always does that.”

It’s a good effort. And it helps to the degree that my ex wants to impress this man. What I mean is that my ex wants full custody of our boys—remember, that’s why we’re there. So he wants the psychologist to believe that he’s the most amazing, connected parent on earth. He wants to be seen as cooperative, value-driven, and stable. And so he jumps through just about any hoop the psychologist sets up for him.

The benefit to me is that the psychologist is setting up hoops to help us “get along.” And while my ex may work to undermine that possibility as much as he can between appointments, he does have to make some public efforts now to be agreeable. He does have to report back on whether he did what he was supposed to do. And so while he’s never going to not be who he is, I have to say that it’s been kind of nice to have him working so hard to please the professional.

It makes me want to stay under evaluation like this until our kids are all grown.

What Happens Between Sessions

Of course, there’s some falling off the wagon in our daily parenting life together—including lies and manipulation. But I’ve been connected to this sociopath for a couple decades now, so I’m not surprised anymore when he says one thing and does another. I’m not shocked when what he does between sessions is—to the greatest undetected degree possible—the opposite of really getting along. He over-involves our children (no boundaries) and continues to alienate them from me. They’ll come to me angry and say, “Why are you taking Dad to court?! Dad doesn’t even know why you have to keep doing this. He can’t even take us camping this summer—not even camping—because court is costing him so much money. Why do you always do this to Dad?! Why can’t you just leave him alone. Dad just wants to get along.”

I’ll remind you again here that my ex is the one filing all the motions. I’m there because I have to be—because if I don’t show up, he’ll eliminate me from our children’s lives entirely.

And there’s no talking truth in the midst of this chaos. Our children are so lost in the whirlwind of his words that it doesn’t matter what I say. If I try to correct them about who filed what, then we just circle around and around in a pointless argument over the facts. That’s an argument I can’t win, so I don’t try very often. What I generally do is look at their experiences from a bird’s-eye view. And I see kids who are lost and upset and who really want to live their own stable lives. Who really do want us to get along. Whose long-term psychological health depends on it.

And so I do everything in my power to reduce the conflict, keep it neutral, and make my heart calm in difficult moments.

That’s an exhausting daily exercise, given that sociopaths thrive on chaos and stir it up in every moment.

And that’s co-parenting as I know it.

Standing with a Sociopath

So I stand with my ex at our children’s events. I work on my internal boundaries because there’s never going to be an external divide. No clean finish. No end.

We’re raising children together.

And our children want to see us getting along. The professionals involved—including the psychologist I mentioned—want us to sit together at athletic banquets, and they want us to save seats for each other at games and events. This may be right and it may be wrong, but it’s one of the hoops they want us to jump through. So we’re doing it.

Let me just tell you, it’s really incredibly difficult to sit next to someone who believes that God wants “people like me” to be “wiped from the face of the earth.” I’m now sending photos of our kids from my phone to someone who has broken into my house and threatened my life. I’m chatting casually with a man who coaches our sons on all the ways I’m a disgusting, valueless woman. Who wants them to hate me, and who works every day behind the scenes to make that happen.

And who is so good at hiding it that no professional involved even thinks about making it stop.

Instead, they want us to sit together.

And so we do. I can see our kids appreciating it, and so I approach my ex with a deep, calm breath—amazed by my own human strength.

I’m strong.

And I’m a victim of a sociopath.

Those things do go together.

Victims are not weak. We’re amazing. We focus on the needs of our children in a flawed system. We do what it takes to “get along.” We create peaceful moments in the face of chaos, and we put our shoulders back and take the next step.

Even when it means we have to stand by the sociopath. Day after day, year after year.

We do what it takes.

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