Those of us in an active relationship with a psychopath usually either don’t see or choose to ignore how purely evil these characters are–and that they are set out to destroy the relationship, the victimized person, and even the children if there are any involved. Many times a victim feels like they can’t leave, especially if they don’t have financial resources (which is often the case when a person is enmeshed with a psychopath, who may have made any funds impossible to access), a supportive family to help them escape, or there are children involved.
Like most women (and men) enmeshed in a marriage or relationship with a psychopath, I waited far too long to leave my abuser. My son, although scapegoated by his father through most of his childhood, escaped relatively unscathed (although he has some anger and self esteem issues), but my daughter is another story. She was deeply damaged by her father’s manipulations and by having to play the role of his junior “flying monkey” and participate in his triangulation and gaslighting games when she was just a child and young teenager, not to mention being introduced to things a youngster should not have to deal with: drugs, alcohol, family violence (and even possible sexual abuse, though this has never been proven). She’s taken on a few of his narcissistic traits (she’s good at manipulation and isn’t always honest), although narcissism is to some extent genetic and her symptoms don’t seem to be too severe. She is also bipolar and suffers from C-PTSD, as I do.
For many years, I didn’t even see that he was an abuser. He wasn’t usually physically violent (except when drinking); his method of abuse was much more subtle–and more diabolical than that. I didn’t know what hit me and like most abused spouses, learned to blame myself and came to believe the discord was MY problem, because I “overreacted to everything” and was “crazy and unstable.” Having to spend time in a mental facility in the late 1990s was “proof” that I was the one with the mental problems–and in fact I did have serious mental problems, but they were brought on by my mind being played like a violin by a very evil man. He was a virtuoso crazymaker.
Other people saw how evil he was and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t see it too. I remember a friend of mine from work came over once with another friend when Michael was home, and while he was pleasant enough to them, neither of these friends ever wanted to come to my home again. When I asked Holly (one of the friends) why not, she said, “I don’t like your husband and neither does Teresa. He gave us the creeps, there’s just something not very nice about him.”
Parents of two of my daughter’s friends had met Michael, and would not allow their children to come to my home because of him. Oh, he was always on his best behavior with adult visitors, but one of the mothers told me, “he seems perfectly polite, but I just don’t feel comfortable around him and don’t want my daughter around him. I’m very sorry.”
I saw the evil in him on one occasion while we were still married–and what I saw scared the shit out of me. It was one night when he was very drunk, we had been fighting all night and ended it by having sex. The sex was rough and angry though, and suddenly I looked up and saw a totally expressionless face. There was no love there, just pure hatred. I could feel the hate emanating from him. But worse than that was his eyes. Normally a steely gray-blue, they had turned solid black, very similar to the solid black eyes demons in horror movies have. I know I wasn’t imagining this–what I was seeing was what he really was but kept hidden. No, not a demon, but something worse–a person with no self, a person who had sold his soul or never had one. There was nothing there, and nothingness is what evil actually is. That’s why malignant narcissists and psychopaths need to wear masks, to cover up what isn’t there.
Michael knew I had seen it, and knew I knew, because he immediately ended the intimacy, pulled on his clothes, and left the house, but not before giving me the most hateful sneer I had ever seen.
My father had talked to him one night during one of our many fights. Now my father has never been a particularly religious man and never believed in Satan or hell, so he didn’t say anything about this to me at the time, but years later, after Michael and I separated, he confessed that night he had heard Michael speaking in a low, gutteral, demonic voice. It scared him so much he decided to read M. Scott Peck’s book,”People of the Lie,” and after he was done he sent me the book. I was riveted by the book and also shocked and scared to death. That was the first time I began to realize that I had been dealing with a malignant narcissist who was dead set on destroying me and my children and almost succeeded.
People outside the relationship–casual friends, mothers of my children’s friends, and my father had all seen immediately what he was, but because I was enmeshed and had young children, I couldn’t see it–or refused to. It gives me chills to this day to think I spent 28 years in the presence of pure evil, but that’s what it was. I’m lucky to be alive today and even luckier that I didn’t completely lose my soul. My children are lucky too, although my poor daughter is the most deeply damaged by him and may never fully recover.
If you are in a relationship and others are wary or uncomfortable around them and can’t explain why, or you see the countenance of pure hatred and evil that I did (and also the solid black eyes), run away as fast as you can. If there are kids, take them with you. You may think you can’t, but even if you don’t have a supportive family or are financially unable to find another place to live, most towns and cities have services and even shelters for abused women and their children. The shelter I stayed at with my kids was very nice, and the counselors were wonderful (I went back though). If you are a man, it may be more difficult to find this kind of help, and you might have to dig a little deeper or even move to another area to find services, but they do exist. Take advantage of the government programs that still exist–food stamps, Medicaid for the kids, in some communities even housing vouchers. Churches and other charitable organizations have limited funds, but may be able to provide some food, help with bills, or other services. Seek counseling–many communities have free or low cost mental health services for abused parents and their children. Don’t worry that you have to move out of that big house you bought together, or that your kids will be without their father (or mother). This is life or death–don’t think about what you’ll be losing because at the end of the day, it won’t be much. Just get the hell out.