The Controlling Wife

So many times we hear about sociopathic men controlling women. Typically, it is females who become trapped in emotionally abusive relationships and cannot leave due to financial circumstances. However, there are also many men trapped in similar situations. I know that the term ‘controlling woman’ is a stereotype and yet I recently experienced a situation which made me think about it in-depth.

A dear friend of thirty years recently tried to end his relationships with  a sociopathic family member. I had been friends with this man, whom I’ll call Tom, for thirty years. I knew about Tom’s situation with his family member for several years. Several months ago, he came to me because he had decided to cut off ties with this individual, who happened to be his wife.

My friend grew up in a home with a very controlling mother and without knowing it he signed up for the same treatment in his marriage. I met his wife when they first started dating. She struck me as quite immature. She was 21 at the time but seemed more like 11. All that this woman wanted out of life was to have as many babies as possible and to not have to work outside the home. Tom, who was in love with his wife and eager to start a family, agreed that she should stay home with the children but he did not know that he was also signing up to support her financially for the rest of her life.

The number of children seemed to be the first point of struggle. After three children, Tom wanted to stop but she insisted on more. Tom wanted a vasectomy stating that they could not afford more children because his wife was not working and he had a blue-collar profession. After the fourth child arrived, Tom again stated that he wanted no more children. At this time, they had three boys and one girl. His wife insisted that she “needed” another daughter and begged and pleaded. So their second daughter was born. After five children, Tom insisted on a vasectomy.

After the vasectomy there was very little and eventually no sex. Without the possibility of pregnancy, Tom’s wife only used sex as a reward/punishment system, sending him to sleep on the couch so often that he eventually moved to the couch.

In addition to wanting more children than they could afford, Tom’s wife also had expensive habits including wine, clothing, make up and going out to lunch with her friends. She still did not work outside the home. Tom went without to provide her  wants and he subsequently ignored his own needs. His wife had been brought up in a wealthy family and she did not seem to understand that her husband was a blue-collar worker with a limited earning potential. Credit card debts ensued, not for necessary items but for luxuries. At one point the finances were strained after Tom was laid off from a manufacturing firm which was moving overseas. Instead of offering to find work herself to help pay the bills (the youngest child at that time being 8), his wife pushed for them to take a second mortgage, which they did, mounting to the debt.

Early on in this marriage, Tom’s wife took the lead of being the boss, of being in charge. He referred to her as a bully. If she did not get her way, then she would punish him with sullen moods, outbursts of anger, and fits of crying. She inflicted her moods on the children, who also responded to her manipulations by acquiescing to their mother’s demands. The entire household revolved around the mother. Anything and everything was done to keep her calm. Tom pressed her to see a psychiatrist but she refused.

With the economic changes after 2008, Tom found that he was unable to make enough money in his career as an industrial tradesman without traveling to remote areas for weeks or months at a time and sending the money back home to his wife. He lived in squalid conditions including musty hotel rooms, shared housing and even campsites to keep his expenses as low as possible. He was incredibly unhappy and yet he felt that he must keep working to support his children, especially as his wife continued to not work outside the home.

As the years went by the type of work Tom had to perform, which involved climbing and lifting for ten to twelve hours a day, began to have a toll on his body. Having inherited a genetic form of arthritis, his limbs became twisted and as he took medications to control the swelling at such high levels that his liver levels were altered. It was at this point that I came into contact with him again, after an absence of several years. He was desperate to change careers and yet he could not afford to. When I suggested that his wife should get a job, he felt thankful to me for saying so. And yet she continued to not work and he continued to tax his body.

During the past couple of years, Tom remarked to me that lately, instead of working five ten to twelve-hour days per week, he needed to work six in order to make enough money to satisfy his wife’s spending habits. He referenced her credit card bills, expensive clothing, trips to the hairdressers, cases of wine, organic food, vitamins. At this point, I interjected, “Organic food! You’ve got five kids and a workingman’s salary! You can’t afford organic food!” He sadly agreed and yet he seemed powerless to stop her from buying it.

Finally, last fall, feeling his body becoming worn out and broken, and with every day of work more painful than the one before, Tom had enough. He decided to call it off. The youngest child was fifteen. He announced his intention for a divorce, and told her that although he would fully support the children and household until the youngest was eighteen, she would need to get a full-time job right away, as he intended to transition to a career which would not destroy his body further.

Tom’s resolve lasted a few months while his wife battered away at him daily. First, after having ignored him sexually for years, she began pursuing him against his will. He felt extremely uncomfortable about her advances and asked her to stop. She did not. Since he was working several hours away, and saw her only occasionally, at first this was not too difficult. But then she began calling him and texting him unceasingly. After having ignored him completely for years, she began a campaign of constant contact, which anyone outside of the situation would consider harassment. She agreed to go to counseling to address her poor behavior, then she missed the appointments. She yelled, screamed, cried, withdrew. She harangued him, argued with him and accused him repeatedly of neglecting his duty. She shamed him. She told him that his children were suffering because of his actions. She upset their teenage and young adult children, whom she drew into her confidence as she designated herself as the victim, suddenly thrown out and forced to get a job, as if doing so were an indignity she could not bear. Soon his young adult children began to call him at work asking, “Why are you making Mom get a job?”

None of Tom’s children seemed to be aware of the breakdown of their father’s body, or how hard he worked, or what that work did to him. All they heard was the deafening yells of this woman who was simply a large child not getting her way. Finally, after several months of harassment, Tom needed unexpected surgery and wound up unemployed and living under the same roof as his wife. Due to pressure from her and his oldest daughter, he finally gave up his intention to get a divorce and agreed to reconcile with his wife. Undoubtedly, he will work six or seven days a week until his body fails, which cannot be too many years from now. (He is currently 50 years old.)

As sad as this story is, I know of several men trapped in similar situations. Their female partners control them by withholding sex, and making them feel ashamed. They accuse them of neglecting their duties and being bad fathers if they consider leaving their wives. My friend Tom knew that it was possible to get divorced and still be a good father and he set out determined to do this and yet his intentions were undermined by his wife convincing him (and the children) that if he left her, he was also leaving the children. This case is particularly sad in that the wife used the children to such an extent that Tom began viewing them as if they were much younger and more helpless than they were. A secondary aspect of this family’s dysfunction is that the adult children were also growing dependent on Tom to be the person who not only made all the money but who solved all of the emotional squabbles in the household. Two of the adult children were still living at home and not contributing anything to the household in terms of either money or labor.

Control and manipulation are gender neutral. Anyone can play in these twisted games. My heart goes out to all persons trapped by controlling partners or family members; may you all find the courage to escape.



Never Argue with a Narcissist


Don’t waste your time trying to win an argument with a narcissist because you never will. Not only are they always right, but you are always wrong.

My father once challenged me to explain my mother to any shrink in less than one hundred hours. That poor lady (now deceased) visited many psychiatrists, took lithium and Valium throughout my childhood and never divulged her diagnoses. (She went to the grave denying that she’d ever been diagnosed with any mental condition.)

The therapists I’ve spent hundreds of hours explaining my mother to over the  years agree that she was bi-polar. One  believes that my mother had borderline personality disorder. At one point, she was hearing voices. At another one, she was cutting up her own clothing with a razor blade and then blaming me (age 10) for the shredded garments.

I digress. At any rate, my mother certainly had severe mental illness. Her mental illness has taken center stage in my memories of her. However,  the strongest underpinning of her personality was extreme narcissism.

My life experience hours spent arguing and trying to reason with my mother would easily number into the thousands. You could not argue with her because you could not even begin to get her on the same page to begin the argument.

Here’s a stunning example of what it was like to try to argue with my mother.  Towards the end of her life, we took a family vacation to Maine. (She stayed in one room and I stayed in another room with my three children and a friend whose sole job it was to run interference when my mother became impossible, which was several times a day.)

Not surprisingly, one day during our vacation, my mother upset my teenage daughter with a stunning display of lack of boundaries combined with manipulation and aggressive coercion. She wanted my daughter to pay attention to her (the dying, overbearing grandmother) instead of spending time with kids her own age at the beach.

I managed to drag my mother away from my daughter and into my hotel room. Exasperated and ready to scream at this woman- my poor, belligerent, combatant, mentally and physically ill mother- I managed to calm myself down and sat her at the table in the hotel kitchenette and poured us each a cold drink. 

I decided that once and for all, I would get this straight with my mother. She was dying and time was short. If she wanted a better relationship with her only granddaughter, then she would have to listen to reason.

I picked up a paper plate off the table  and sketched a diagram representing personal boundaries in order to illustrate how my mother’s behavior and speech were offensive to my daughter. My mother watched me draw the diagram but as soon as I began to explain what I was drawing, she grabbed another paper plate and began drawing her own diagram.

“Here.” She shoved her diagram under my nose, cutting off my explanation about appropriate personal boundaries between overbearing, controlling grandmothers and teenage granddaughters who want to be left alone.

I looked, amazed. Her diagram had absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand. It was a diagram of her personal finances, which were quite dire, given her manic spending modes and her unemployment due to illness.

She had heard absolutely nothing of what I’d said. She had no interest or no intention of listening to me, being reasoned with, or forced to understand why she needed to allow her granddaughter to act like a normal teenager.

Staring at me intently with her beady little eyes, she began to explain, (copying my mannerisms,) her finances. “This is not related.” I said and tried to steer the conversation back to boundaries and why she was such a pain in the ass and her granddaughter couldn’t stand her and how her actions were only driving her away even more.

She kept staring at me and kept repeating her finances. I believe that her intent was to make me feel sorry for her because she had so little income. I guess that was her intention. I’ll never know now. But I realized then that there was absolutely no way that she would ever listen to me or admit wrong, even if it meant changing the entire subject into something unrelated and even nonsensical. She was behaving as if she believed her behavior, drawing her diagram on the plate, to be reasonable, because it was what I had done. She was taking my own tactic and turning the tables on me, proving that she could play my game.

From there on, she seized the narrative in a long torrent of how badly we all treated her. I didn’t take the bait and went out to gather up my kids. It was time for dinner. I continued to ignore her.

Enraged, she left the next day and didn’t speak to me for several months afterwards, until hospitalized towards the end of her illness.

Looking back at the paper plate ‘argument’ on that day, from my mother’s point of view, she (the narcissist), was not getting what she wanted and deserved (constant attention from her granddaughter.) She was unable to hear or acknowledge that she had driven her granddaughter away after years of her aggressive, controlling behavior because she (the narcissist) was never wrong. If she behaved in a certain way towards her granddaughter, then her granddaughter must have deserved it for not treating the narcissist in the way that she deserved.

Despite the many years of growing up with and dealing with my mother and her impossible behavior, the paper plate incident was epiphanal in my understanding of what it was like inside her head. She was absolutely incapable of being wrong. We were the problem because we werent’ treating her properly. For me to step in and try to discuss her behavior with her rationally was simply more familial mistreatment of the narcissist. Her inability to take responsiblity for her actions, or the consequences of them, indicates a strongly wired narcissistic personality base, regardless of other mental illness issues.



Antisocial Personality Disorder 101

1212mentalhealth-RWI am writing today about the basics of Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD).

Quite recently, I realized that the ‘love of my life’ has ASPD. In addition, he has many characteristics of both Narcissistic and Borderline personality disorders along with decades of addiction to illegal drugs and alcohol. However, his primary personality disorder is ASPD, so I am writing specifically on that subject.

My interest in this subject is due to my own personal experiences. I am one of many voices on the internet who can tell you my tale of recovering from a relationship with someone with ASPD.

This relationship has hurt me  financially, emotionally, physically, sexually and energetically. I met him when I was 18. We married young.  I left him when I was 22 due to his drug addiction and involvement with criminals.  Unfortunately, at that time, I did not grasp that my young husband was mentally ill. Instead, I blamed his problems solely on drugs and alcohol.

As a result, he was able to sweet talk his way back into my life when I was 40. He did this by lying to me, our daughter, our parents and my friends about his ‘recovery’ from addictions, which was completely bogus, as he’d never stopped using. Instead, he’d learned to hide his illegal activities by developing a double life; he showed one to his family and the other was spent engaging with criminals in criminal activities.

About ASPD

Perhaps the most important thing to know about Antisocial personality disorder is that the term has replaced Psychopathy in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistic Manual (DSM.) Yes, the person with ASPD is, in fact, a psychopath. It’s that scary, and that dangerous.

Definitions of Antisocial Personality Disorder/Psychopathy

Antisocial Personality Disorder:   “A personality disorder that is characterized by antisocial behavior exhibiting pervasive disregard for and violation of the rights, feelings, and safety of others starting in childhood or the early teenage years and continuing into adulthood —called also psychopathic personality disorder.
Psychopathy: “mental disorder especially when marked by egocentric and antisocial activity
The U.S. Library of National Medicine defines Antisocial Personality Disorder as, “… a mental health condition in which a person has a long-term pattern of manipulating, exploiting, or violating the rights of others. This behavior is often criminal.” (
Complications of Antisocial Personality Disorder
Complications of Antisocial Personality Disorder include: “imprisonment, drug abuse, violence, and suicide.” (

Diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder

“The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM IV-TR), defines antisocial personality disorder (in Axis II Cluster B) as:[1]

A) There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since age 15 years, as indicated by three or more of the following:

  1. failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
  2. deception, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
  3. impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead;
  4. irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
  5. reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
  6. consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;
  7. lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another;” (

Causes of Antisocial Personality Disorder

The causes of ASPD are not well-known. It appears to be a genetic abnormality in the brain. Experts agree that people are born with ASPD, although there is some conjecture about the possibility of this disorder developing as the result of child abuse or neglect.

Brain Differences in Persons wtih ASPD

Researchers from the University of Madison-Wisconsin have recently released a study which proves that the brains of psychopaths have less connections between the ventromedial frontal cortex. (Source:

We use our ventromedial frontal cortex  for judgement, decision-making and social functioning. Research strongly suggests that people with ASPD have undeveloped brains. They’ve never developed into normal adults and do  know neither what empathy is, nor delayed gratification. In many ways, they are like ten-year olds in adult bodies. Their bodies are mature, but they are not capable of being responsible, caring adults. Their primary purpose in life is to seek immediate gratification. They like to play with toys.  Toys of an adult with ASPD are anything which gives him or her pleasure. (I was the toy of a man with ASPD. It’s a pretty crappy thing to try to recover from.)

Treatment for Antisocial Personality Disorder

Although there are some alternative therapies being tested, currently there are no medically recommended effective treatments for ASPD. Neither medication nor talk therapy has proven effective. Like those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, ASPD individuals share the core belief that there is nothing wrong with the way they are.

My ex husband spent so much time dealing drugs and hanging out with criminals, that after twenty-five years,  he really was not able to judge what he or his friends were doing as ‘bad’. The only issue in their behavior was that of getting caught. (Again, this probably stems from their undeveloped brains.) From what I’ve read, most individuals with ASPD will only seek counseling when they are coerced to do so by either an irate spouse or the judicial system, and in these cases, they will flee counseling as soon as they are no longer required to attend.

How to Have a Relationship with Someone With Antisocial Personality Disorder

This answer is simple; you can’t. Unless you enjoy being lied to, cheated on, hurt and deceived in various ways, and you are tolerant of criminal activity, you’d better just get out. He or she won’t change. Most likely, the person in your life with ASPD was born that way. His or her brain is different from yours. Although this person can talk quite coherently about love and their feelings for you, remember that people with ASPD are actors. They are glib conversationalists who can be delightful companions. However, it is their actions which count and not their words. If you can stop listening to them and look at who they are, how they spend their time, who they spend it with and what their secrets are, then you will soon discover that the person you thought you loved is actually quite a scumbag.



Where Narcissicm Ends and Antisocial Personality Disorder Begins

Antisocial Personality Disorder

Image by genelin1211 via Flickr

Let me be perfectly clear. Before last year, I had never studied the definitions of Narcissistic or Antisocial personality disorders much less compared the two. I know there’s quite a few people out there who get their kicks by informally diagnosing the difficult people in their lives with one type of personality disorder or another. This is not me. I have never done this. I am only writing about the differences between the two disorders because of the emotional upheaval in my life  the return, after a twenty year absence, of my first husband, and his subsequent behavior and treatment of me.

The man whom I had considered the love of my life turned out to be the liar of my life and I have discovered that I am not along. In the past year I have read the stories of so many people, both men and women, whose lives have been destroyed by narcissists. I have read less from people recovering from relationships with ASPD individuals, and so I am setting out the explore the relationship between the two.

It became apparent to my therapist last year that my former husband had Narcissistic PD. According to the DSM- IV, an individual meets the criteria for this diagnosis if he or she has five of nine of several traits. The narcissist in my life has five of these criteria, including lack of empathy and using others for personal gain (inter-personally exploitative.)

Although this diagnosis explained part of his behavior, it did not cover nearly all of his traits. When I stumbled onto the DSM- IV definition  of Antisocial personality disorder, a thousand light bulbs turned on. He has all seven of the characteristic traits of this disorder , and only three are needed for a diagnosis:

  1. failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest; (He has sold drugs for his entire adult life, over twenty five years.)
  2. deception, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure; (He is a pathological liar– to me, our daughter, his family and his former friends. He has admitted that he lies so much he doesn’t know how to tell the truth.)
  3. impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead; (He has never planned ahead. He has never not given in to an impulse if it is something which will bring him immediate gratification.)
  4. irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults; (He is not aggressive; he is constantly irritable.)
  5. reckless disregard for safety of self or others; (He would not keep drug dealers out of our home when our daughter was a baby; twenty years later, he lied to me and our daughter about his involvement in organized crime and had us sleeping in his house one day and dealers in his house the next.)
  6. consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations; (He has always held the same job, which suits his lifestyle, but he has never honored his financial obligations. He never supported his daughter during her childhood; he never provided a home for me (his wife at the time) to live in while I was pregnant, etc.)
  7. lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another; (He has always blamed me for everything. He views himself as the victim of a hard life. Nothing is his fault.) (From

Therefore, it is clear to me that although my former husband has narcissistic traits, the real underlying cause of his life long deviant behavior is the Antisocial personality disorder, which, not surprisingly, goes hand in hand with drug and alcohol addiction.

And how did I wind up back in a relationship with this man, at the age of 40, after he had been so unreliable, so undependable, so reckless back when we were 22?

Because he lied to me. He swindled me. He conned me. Not just me, but our adult daughter and my father. He came into our lives in a calculated and deceiving way because he wanted things from us. From my daughter, he wanted a relationship. He wanted to have the good feeling of being a Dad, and think that he could erase the past by sending money and presents. The crazy thing is that it worked for a couple years! From me, he wanted a renewal of our sexual/romantic relationship. And he got it! All he had to do was dress nicely, hide his friends, send presents and pour on the charm!

He came back into my life and told me seven huge lies. First, that he only drank ‘on the weekends’. Second, that he had quit getting high and using drugs years before. He even had a long explanation for exactly why and how he’s quit. Third, that he had quit dealing drugs eons ago- that it had been a passing phase when he was younger. He told me all these lies with a straight face, sitting facing me in conversation. I asked him repeatedly about these things as they had been such a huge problem twenty years before. He managed to convince me that I’d misjudged him- that he’d been a troubled young man who had eventually straightened out, and if only I’d stuck around, then we could have been a family together. He spun it all so that within a very short amount of our being in contact again, I felt badly for having abandoned him in our twenties. He downplayed the past drug use and dealing and presented such a clean cut facade that I doubted my decision to leave him in 1989 when our daughter was a baby and then to break off contact. I began to feel as if I’d overreacted. I shared this with my father, and even he felt bad that we hadn’t given my young troubled husband more of a chance.

Very soon, all the trouble he’d caused by his total lack of parental responsibility was overshadowed by how emotionally overwrought he was over all the years he’d spent alone, pining for us.

This was the tone of the first year of our ‘reunion’. Absolute insanity! He had me second guessing my decision of twenty years before to take the baby and leave while he was still, in the present moment, pretending to be the long-lost father and soul mate of the year AND still dealing drugs with the same old crowd from two decades before!

My life, which I’d devoted to goodness and purity, went down this path of absolute insanity based on the lies of a psychopath or sociopath! I’m trying to sort out the definitions between these two terms but they are both related to ASPD. I guess psychopathy is a subset of ASPD? Not sure how all the term/diagnoses interconnect, but it sure is creepy to look back and see how easily we let him back into our lives with only an apology, a clean cut appearance, expensive gifts and flowery words.

Once you have a damaging experience with a person with ASPD, your ability to trust will never be the same.