A relationship with a sociopathic husband is often defined by his charm, charisma, and quick wit, especially at the beginning. But after some time in a marriage, cracks in his external persona reveal increasingly self-absorbed, manipulative, unsympathetic behavior. Being married to a sociopath is challenging and seldom, if ever, healthy. And although you recognize many of these traits, what they mean to you now that you are married, means deciding whether you should – or can – stay married or choose the path to leave.
What is Sociopathy?
Approximately 4% of the population are sociopaths and are thought to be born with relatively normal brain development. Sociopaths inherently meet the criteria for antisocial personality disorder (APD) a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of the rights of others. These patterns often begin in childhood or early adolescence and continue well into adulthood. They are also referred to as psychopathy, sociopathy, and dissocial personality disorder.1
A sociopathic person has an unemotional mindset, is callous, and lacks remorse. These and other personality traits are more harmful and extreme for sociopathy than for APD 2. Research has found that harsh and inconsistent parenting may contribute to sociopathy.3
Sociopaths often present as angry, defiant, provocative, and resistant. They may be openly aggressive. They are likely to blame others for causing them to behave the way they do. Relationships for them are problematic. 4 They are defined as someone who doesn’t fit the norms of society and is a cluster of behaviors and personality traits. 5
10 Signs of Sociopathic Husbands
Because sociopathy is a personality disorder, common signs of a sociopathic husband are pervasive and remain stable over time – meaning they are not likely to change. Further, although the traits of a sociopathic person are detrimental and destructive, it is the impact of these traits collectively that can create the most damage to the marriage and the effects on both the spouse and children.
The following are signs of a sociopathic husband:
1. They Are Manipulative
They use manipulation tactics to emotionally and mentally attack people. It’s a form of lying for self-protection. They will manipulate you to get what they want and use several tactics to get what they want.
2. They Are Egocentric
At the heart of most of their thoughts are themselves. They are number one. Their needs come first, before their spouse, children, or family. If they want to go out, they do. If you want to go out, you need several reasons. The focus is on them.
3. They Gaslight You
They will distort the truth and gaslight you, which is a form of emotional abuse. They will challenge your thoughts and make you doubt your thoughts and feelings. You often feel like you are crazy. Over time, you will begin to doubt yourself and the truth because they know how to bend the truth.
4. They Have Explosive Behaviors
They are often callous, with poor impulse control and erratic behaviors. You are often not sure who is showing up. You often feel like you are walking on eggshells because they are unpredictable. You might try and stay ahead and figure out their mood to keep the home environment safe. This rarely works.
5. They Lack Empathy
They are unable to put themselves in your shoes. They are unable to understand and share the feelings of others. For example, if you are sick or not feeling well, don’t expect them to have any sympathy for you or care for you. You are infringing on their time and the focus is no longer on them.
6. They Lack Remorse
They are unable to feel remorse and cannot take responsibility for their behaviors or the harm they have inflicted on another person. Although they may say something that appears like they are remorseful, they are not. And because they lack remorse, they don’t have the insight to make any changes to improve things.
7. They Never Apologize
They never apologize because they don’t feel they have done anything wrong. The world and others are wrong. They have been wronged in life and therefore feel no need to apologize. So, never expect an apology from them.
8. They Can Be Sexually Deviant
Since they lack guilt and remorse, they will have affairs or engage in inappropriate or questionable sexual activity.
9. They Are Irresponsible
They often have irresponsible work behavior indicated by significant periods of unemployment or unable to maintain employment. This often extends to being financially abusive and irresponsible with unpaid debts and bills.
10. They Desire Control
They will act in ways that are aggressive and threatening to control the situation, and you. This could be telling you what to do, what to wear, how to act, and how things are going to be in the marriage. In many ways, they have been in control of the relationship from the beginning.
Dangers of Sociopathic Husbands
Due to the unpredictability of the sociopath’s behaviors, many things can set them off. Their behaviors could escalate to a point of becoming more physically and emotionally abusive. It isn’t uncommon for someone to experience the cycle of abuse where after there has been emotional or physical abuse, there is a period of calm and reconciliation, often making you feel things might get better. But then the next time happens.
A driving force behind the sociopath’s behavior is to dominate the other person through power and control. Due to this motivation, there is a greater likelihood that they become abusive or violent. Most people who perpetrate domestic violence are also psychopaths and sociopaths.
Can a Sociopath Change?
Sociopathic behavior is part of antisocial personality disorder, which is pervasive and unlikely to change over time. Because sociopaths are quite satisfied with their lives and themselves, treatment is often not effective. They might enter therapy when ordered by the court, or if there is a secondary gain. But wanting to get better and change, which is a common reason that other people seek therapy, is not something they seek.5
Can a Sociopath Love Another Person?
People often wonder if a sociopathic person is capable of love. That would depend on how one would define love. Love is often defined as having trust and respect for your partner. It means being emotionally available, showing empathy and vulnerability. It means having healthy boundaries. It involves passion, intimacy, connection, and healthy communication. It also means showing care, compassion, and closeness toward your partner.
On the other hand, sociopaths are rarely any of those things. They are often not monogamous. They will marry, but never for love. They cannot, in a genuine way, fall in love with anyone. Sociopaths merely learn to mimic the words and actions of others, but never incorporate them into their existence. They are not capable of experiencing the emotion accompanied by the behavior. The other person simply does not matter.5
How to Deal With a Sociopathic Husband
Although choosing to stay or leave a relationship with a sociopathic husband is not easy, there are ways you can start to deal with this situation from setting healthy boundaries to seeking professional help. Working with a therapist will help you determine the severity of the issues and whether you want to stay in the relationship.
Because sociopaths demand a lot of time and energy from you, the focus is often on them. However, you can start to take control of your life by recognizing that their emotional well-being is not your responsibility, but your emotional well-being is. This could be spending time with family or friends, journaling, engaging in a new hobby, or learning how to not absorb all their negative energy.
Consider Marriage & Couples Counseling
Find a marriage counselor who has experience working with narcissistic or sociopathic people. Your husband might not be interested, or he may just attend a couple of sessions once the intensity of the situation has decreased. However, a couple’s therapist can still help by highlighting certain behaviors that help put things in perspective.
Set Healthy Boundaries
Setting boundaries is about recognizing your needs and putting them first. It’s also self-respect. Healthier boundaries could be making decisions that are in your best interest, such as doing self-care activities or focusing on caring for your children. Maintaining boundaries also limits how much extra time and energy you give your husband.
Be Kind to Yourself
It is common to be critical towards yourself because on the outside, your spouse presents as someone different. Often when people find themselves in these situations, they feel like a fool and should have seen the red flags. Try to give yourself a break.
Reach Out to Others
Rally your support team whether that be with friends or family. Talk to them about what you have been experiencing and ask for their help.
Keep Learning About Sociopathic Husbands
The cliché rings true – knowledge is power, and it is more powerful when it is used. By reading books, blogs, and articles about living with a sociopathic husband, you become more knowledgeable and educated about whom you are dealing with. As your knowledge grows, you may realize that you are not alone and there are many people who are in the same situation. You will also come to understand there are many things you can do to take back control of your life.
Tips for Choosing to Leave a Sociopathic Husband
However, even after making changes you feel might be helpful, leaving the marriage might be the only way to remove yourself from this toxic, unhealthy relationship. Before you decide to take that path, there are several things you should do to protect yourself that will help prepare you:
Come up With a Safety Plan
Your safety plan should address the items and information you need to leave safely. This includes a list of essential items to take from your home, information about local abuse resources, and an explanation of your legal rights. Secure a safe place to keep your personal items and critical pieces of information.
Rally Your Team – Again
Get a plan together and let your support team know your plan. There is strength in numbers, and your supporters will also have resources to help support you.
Speak to a Therapist
A therapist can help you make sure you have a solid safety plan in place. They will also provide the support you will need – as you will need it throughout and after you leave. A therapist will also help you process the ending of this disturbing and traumatic relationship. This will also be a challenging and emotional process due to the trauma bonding that you have experienced, and because you will most likely have shared finances, your living situation, and children. Unraveling all of that will not be easy, but necessary.
Speak to an Attorney
Marital laws vary from state to state. Don’t rely on your friends, family, or the internet to provide the right information – because every story is different. A divorce attorney will inform you of the marital laws in your state so when the time comes to take the steps to get divorced, they will not be able to control you through threats and intimidation by saying things like- ‘you will never see your children’, ‘I will never divorce you’, ‘I will tell everyone you are crazy.’ Remember, you are dealing with a sociopathic person who will revert to threats to prevent you from taking control of the situation.
How To Heal After Living With a Sociopath
Despite the challenges of being in and choosing to leave a relationship with a sociopath, there are ways you can start the healing process. Some of these include seeking professional help, journaling, learning how to trust others and yourself, and becoming vulnerable to grieve the loss and eventually heal.
Although finding a therapist can feel like a daunting process, there are ways to locate someone that will be a good fit for you through an online therapy directory. There are also several different types of mental health professionals that can help you through this process. When you choose to leave this relationship, both individual and family (if you have children) therapists can provide a safe environment to help you heal.
Although dealing with and being married to a sociopath is extremely challenging, there are ways to heal, recover, and move forward regardless of the path you choose to take. But the main focus should be on yourself and use this opportunity – and point of reflection – to give significant thought to what is in your (and your children’s) best interest long term.
10 Signs of Sociopathic Husbands Infographics