Bill Eddy’s book, Splitting, was by far the most helpful book we found in navigating one’s way through a high conflict divorce. It was pivotal in finally finishing off Chris’ own three-year legal battle.
Eddy, a lawyer and former social worker, recently hosted a two-part webinar titled “Sociopaths: the Con Artists of Divorce,” which contained helpful information about the nature of the sociopath, and how he/she can cause chaos during a divorce proceeding. This blog post summarizes the main points from part one; a follow-up summarizing part two is coming soon.
Eddy has noticed a significant increase in the last two years of undiagnosed sociopaths within the family court system, and a lack of understanding in the courts of the issues connected with this personality often ends up making things worse. The goal needs to be to understand their patterns and figure out how to move forward, the sooner the better.
The two main issues surrounding divorce and sociopaths are danger and deception.
A sociopath’s main goal is to dominate others in all aspects of life. They want what they want like a three-year-old, and they want it now, including power for its own sake, and to always be in charge.
Eddy also notes that a sociopath derives joy when others are being dominated and humiliated, regardless who is causing it. They will soften smirk, to display a sense of superiority. The trademark smirk is a warning sign.
Sociopaths also don’t like to be dominated. They take this very personally and their goal becomes too overtly or covertly try to dominate right back. They will lie all the time, even when it is not necessary, and persuasively so, to show they are in charge. Often, business schemes and criminal activity are manifestations of their deceptions.
They are commonly the biggest bullies at work because of their need to be in charge. If they are not supervisors themselves, they are often employees who harass supervisors and are capable of doing a lot of sneaky things.
Violence is common in a sociopath’s life, both within and outside of their own families, and a sociopath lacks both empathy and remorse.
People with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) display a lot of internal distress and social impairment. They are capable of high levels of deceitfulness and make a habit out of conning professionals. They are attracted to careers where they have power over others. Their personality is characterized by a failure to plan ahead as well as irritability and aggressiveness. They often get into physical fights and have a reckless disregard for their own safety or the safety of others.
Their consistent irresponsibility, marked by a repeated failure to sustain consistent work or honor financial obligations leads to a large number of self-employed sociopaths. Interestingly, they often have a number of traffic tickets.
Sociopaths have a preoccupation with dominating targets of blame, and often start out charming, but then switch to punishment. Eddy thus recommends waiting at least a year before committing to a new partner, as their true side often takes about six to nine months to display itself.
These same people often feel justified in brutality and will project their own issues onto others, especially targeting intimates and people in authority, and if their threats do not work, they can easily shift back to being charming.
Sociopaths are often compared to narcissists, but the narcissistic diagnosis does not include impulsivity, aggression, and deceit, which surprised me.
Antisocial batterers are calculated and conscious, and the violence again is from a desire to dominate. Their violence is purposeful, rather than impulsive, and therapy can be very dangerous because these types use therapy to learn how to be more manipulative. The consequence of jail time is one of the few things that restrain them.
In contrast, borderline batterers have an internal tension that builds up and then an impulsive violent outburst. This is often followed by a period of remorse and de-escalation.
Eddy believes that larger cultural behavioral tends to glorify antisocial behavior in movies, TV, the internet, news, etc. It unfortunately grabs our attention and promotes bad role models.
In terms of parenting, a sociopath will dominate a child psychologically as well as physically, and teach him or her antisocial behaviors. The sociopathic parent may also engage the child in anti-social schemes, and team up with the child against the other adult partner.
Sometimes, a sociopath may not abuse a child, but will abuse a partner. Many sexually abuse children for dominance, but on the flip side, may show no interest in the child because the child may be seen as inconvenient. Some just move on and have more children, leaving the others behind.
Treatment is least likely to help a sociopath, and if it is possible, usually before adulthood. These people often will manipulate a therapist and disrupt group therapy sessions. Again, the best way to deal with a sociopath is the threat of putting him/her in jail.
Eddy claims that sociopaths are definitely con artists in family law cases. They often make false allegations filled with projection, which is certainly true in our own personal experiences. They will accuse their partner of abuse and alienation when they are the ones doing it themselves. They will make reckless allegations which can easily be caught, and then they will deny them. They are capable of lying “in the moment” and sounding persuasive and they often will laugh at their partner, because they enjoy humiliating another person.
Again, they enjoy conning professionals. They will often tell stories of being abused and victimized and, sadly, counselors will feel empathy for them, lawyers will fight for them, and even judges can frequently be fooled.
Bill Eddy’s excellent book, Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone With Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder, is available on Amazon and elsewhere. The full two-part “Sociopaths: the Con Artists of Divorce” webinar is available for $45 here.