6 Signs You Should Be Divorcing A Sociopath

By Michael Puskar|Updated June 20, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Wendy Galyen, LCSW, BC-TMH

Finding out that your spouse is a sociopath can be a lot to take in and accept. After all, you have committed by marrying them, and more than likely have plenty of fond memories with that person. However, living with a sociopath can be detrimental in so many different ways, such as emotionally and financially, and it can take a toll on your mental and physical health. This article will discuss the signs of sociopathy in relationships and when to be divorcing a sociopath.

What Is A Sociopath?

Divorce Can Be A Difficult Decision
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Once a term used in the psychiatric literature, sociopathy has been replaced with the condition known as an antisocial personality disorder, which can be described as the "presence of a chronic and pervasive disposition to disregard and violate the rights of others" and consists of traits such as:

  • The exploitation of others
  • Lack of guilt, remorse, and empathy
  • Lying, manipulation, and deceitfulness
  • Aggressive behavior
  • The reckless disregard for the safety of self and others
  • Irresponsibility
  • Repeated violations of the law

Although the term "sociopath" is formally considered outdated, it is still widely used by the general public to describe a person who carries many of these characteristics, especially the first two bullet points in this list. It can be used to describe anyone who lacks a sense of moral responsibility and social conscience, which can sometimes lead to destructive and often criminal behavior.

These traits can easily ruin marriages, and while some signs are apparent right away, some situations are not. Additionally, being married to a sociopath can be difficult to deal with, which can cloud a person's judgment, making it hard to take action. The next section will discuss some common signs that you should leave your sociopathic spouse.

When Is It Time For A Divorce From A Sociopath?

The sooner you recognize the signals that your spouse is a sociopath, the better it will be in the long run. The longer you stay, the more likely it is that you will get hurt. Any reason to leave is valid, but if you are having trouble noticing the signs (they can be subtle at times), this section will provide some of the most frequent behaviors shown by sociopaths in marriages.

  1. Infidelity

Cheating is often grounds for separation in many relationships, married or not; however, it is still possible to forgive and work past it for many couples. Approximately 20 to 40 percent of all marriages in the United States have extra-marital affairs, and around 42 percent of all divorces have reported sexual infidelity during their marriages.

Sociopaths, though, will not care that their behavior is hurting you and will likely continue to do so, despite what they tell you. Many people who have been affected by this will mention that they have heard over and over that "it was a mistake" or "it won't happen again," yet, it inevitably does.

If your spouse has been unfaithful and continues to cheat on you, it is time to file for a divorce because they have no regard for how you feel but will keep on telling you what you want to hear. Sadly, things may only get worse because cheating is correlated with increased marital distress and conflict.

  1. Habitual Lying

Lying and deception can apply to infidelity in many different ways, but in general, a sociopath can lie about just about anything and are typically very good at it. They may also use their personality to manipulate you into thinking that they are telling the truth. However, if things seem fishy and you're finding that you have to question things too frequently, you might be in trouble.

Sociopaths might try to cover up what they do for a living, what errands they will take care of, or how money is being spent. For example, a sociopath might say they're going out to buy groceries, but instead, they will spend the money on drugs and alcohol. As an excuse, the individual will tell the husband or wife that they were robbed.

Keep an eye out for possible lies, no matter how small they seem. If something seems off in any way and it has been like that throughout your marriage, this should be a red flag and perhaps a sign that you should get a divorce as soon as possible.

  1. Stealing & Overspending

Like lying and cheating, financial issues can also destroy any relationship. Still, the risk is higher when married because married couples live together and share assets, such as bank accounts and credit cards.

While financial assets are being shared technically, a sociopath generally will have no sense of responsibility and continue to spend, despite the consequences. For example, a person's spouse can take their credit card without their permission, spend it on personal belongings, and leave their partner in potentially serious debt. Sometimes hard-earned funds can be siphoned to fund a pathological gambling or substance habit. Victims might not be aware of it because the money will start gradually disappearing rather than in large bursts.

Unfortunately, divorces regarding finances can be tricky and daunting because, sometimes, settlements may require one of the parties to pay some spousal support, like alimony. On the other hand, until a divorce is finalized, they will continue to take directly from your wallet, and you may continue to struggle with your emotional well-being.

  1. Defensive Behavior & Playing The Victim

It is common for people to go on the defensive when questioned about something, especially if you know that you are right; however, sociopaths will get this way for seemingly no reason at all and maybe even blame you for it.

For example, a sociopath might start binge drinking and claim that it is all your fault and that you treat them poorly. They will try to make you feel sorry for their actions, and you might try to help them, but this does not lead anywhere. It reinforces their behavior.

In extreme cases, sociopaths who are overly defensive and preoccupied with blaming others might try to go out of their way to punish others actively and get revenge on those who do not comply with them.

  1. Irritability & Verbal Abuse

If the person that you married and decided to love unconditionally, who may at one point been charming and affectionate, has now switched gears and now has become hostile, argumentative, and verbally abusive, they may be a sociopath.

Often, it can switch back and forth; one moment, the sociopath will resort to name-calling and making threats, and another, they will be affectionate and seductive. These are all manipulation tactics, and they can make a person severely doubt themselves.

Living with unpredictable moods is extremely difficult, but no established threshold indicates that it is time to leave – it is up to you to decide when enough is enough. No one should have to dread interacting with the person they married, but if you are unhappy, that should be your cue to divorce a potential sociopath.

  1. Physical Violence

Unfortunately, domestic violence is a relatively common occurrence in relationships. In the United States, it is estimated that there is a 17.2 to 25.5 percent chance for violence amongst married couples.

In addition to verbal and emotional abuse, sociopaths can also be physically violent. Some will claim that they are sorry for their actions but still keep on hitting. Apologies or not, a sociopath does not have any remorse for their actions.

If you are being subjected to physical abuse, you need to file for divorce because studies show that violence will "escalate in severity and frequency over time." Not only that, it is a crime. Additionally, dating violence is often a precursor to abusive marriages, even though it might not present itself early on in some cases.

If you're experiencing physical abuse, you're not alone, and help is out there. You can call the  National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233).

Conclusion

Divorce Can Be A Difficult Decision

Sociopaths can affect people of all different backgrounds. Everyone, regardless of gender, has the potential to be a sociopath and can be equally destructive towards marriages.

Divorce, in general, can be extremely challenging to cope with, but the burden of dealing with a sociopath can make it that much harder, and it is normal to require assistance during your time of need. Suppose you have been thinking about getting a divorce or have already undergone one. In that case, ReGain offers online counseling and therapy sessions to help you overcome this difficult period of your life, so you can learn how to live life on your terms, not your spouses'.

Hopefully, this article has helped you recognize the signs and spot the sociopathic behavior patterns for those who have not separated from their abusive spouse yet. Accepting the facts and going through the procedure will more than likely cause a series of negative emotions and stress, but with adequate support, you will come out as a healthier and happier person on the other end.

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