You've been swept off your feet with his constant attention, compliments and near-perfect mirror of wants, desires, hopes and dreams. His charm and charisma are out of this world. Unfortunately, the image he presents is a mask designed to fool you into falling head over heels in love -- while he carefully plots how to rid you of your life savings and destroy your personal relationships. Martha Stout, clinical psychologist and author of "The Sociopath Next Door," describes sociopaths as personality disordered individuals who lack a conscience and display a pattern of disregarding and violating the rights of others. If this sounds like your situation, you need to find a way out.
Consult a Professional
Something may have tipped you off that your new beau is not all that he seems. Perhaps you caught him in a blatant lie, found out he is dating another woman or discovered some sordid tidbit from his past. If you have made the decision to dump him, tread carefully. A break-up with a sociopath will not be smooth sailing -- and in the worst instances could be extremely difficult and dangerous. Your best first course of action is to consult a mental health professional or violence prevention organization to discuss your situation -- particularly if you feel the sociopath is unpredictable.
Sociopaths do not respect boundaries and have an agenda to manipulate at every opportunity. If you choose to break-up, Stout advocates a "no contact" rule. This means refusing contact or communication -- all phone calls, emails, instant messages, text messages, cards and packages. If you must communicate for legal or custody reasons, do it through a third party such as a lawyer or other professional.
Don't Fool Yourself
You may still feel love or pity for the sociopath or not want to admit you were taken. You might dream about an apology or worry about an unsure future. Stout argues that leaving a sociopath is still the best course of action. He will not apologize. He doesn't care that he hurt you. Better to reserve your affection and emotions for someone who generally appreciates what you have to offer.
It may be easier or safer to make the sociopath feel as though the break-up was his choice. In Stout's words, "do not join the game." Sociopaths thrive on your emotions and reactions. If you do your best to become boring and non-reactive, he will eventually conclude that his "toy" is broken. It takes patience and self-control, but it can be a good strategy to diffuse the situation -- particularly if there are children involved. But if you feel the sociopath is dangerous, leave as soon as possible.
The Pity Ploy
Be warned that sociopaths are known to come back days, weeks or months later with a sad story to draw you back in. Pity should be reserved for those who are genuinely suffering. Those who clamor for your pity should be regarded with caution.
Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.