As a divorce coach, it's something I hear often: a recently divorced woman will talk about her ex and scathingly describe him as a "sociopath" or a "narcissist." While it may bring her a sense of justification by labeling her ex, what does she really gain from playing the victim in her divorce? Many people, both men and women, experience a range of emotions when they are going through a divorce. They act out in ways that are not aligned with their innate personalities. They act this way out of revenge, anger and pain. And the act of name-calling may be a way to relieve these feelings.
So is your ex really a sociopath or a narcissist? Or is he just acting out? Many skilled divorce coaches agree that a person will take on these personality traits during stressful life changes and then revert back to normal once the stress is gone.
How do you know he's a sociopath? If he's a true sociopath, there would have been warning signs at the very beginning of your relationship. Sociopaths are masters at deception. For instance, he may have lied about his job, finances or family. He probably did not have close ties with too many people, as a sociopath is incapable of feeling shame, guilt or remorse.
A sociopath has little concern for another person's feelings, desires or needs. His main purpose is to get what he wants, regardless of how it may harm other people. He was probably very charming and charismatic, which is how a sociopath will win over the love and affection of his target -- you. He knew how to play the victim so that nothing was ever his fault and had a way of twisting it around so that you believed that it was somehow your fault. A sociopath continuously invents outrageous lies about his past experiences and other people. If your ex really is a sociopath, you'll see a history of his fabricated storytelling and wonder to yourself how you could have ever believed some of those absurd lies in the first place. So, if he doesn't fit the "sociopath" profile -- could he still be a narcissist?
How do you know he's a narcissist? If he's a narcissist, he's thoroughly satisfied with his own mental attributes as well as his physical appearance. Narcissists are very vain and selfish. He needs approval and praise from everyone around him and will be set off by the slightest criticism he receives. Much like a sociopath, he'll have no remorse over hurting people. Because he has no conscience, he may be quite successful in a business where cut-throat behavior is essential in order to get ahead.
A narcissist will find ways to punish those who reject him. He constantly seeks validation and recognition from others and will often put others down to inflate his own ego. He's addicted to the spotlight and has an insatiable need to be recognized for every single achievement. Because the narcissist needs constant reassurance, he's more likely to become very desperate during a divorce. He won't honor boundaries; he's willing to break laws and hurt others, regardless of the consequences.
So what's the difference between the two? A narcissist needs to be validated by others, and a sociopath doesn't. A sociopath will exploit others because he finds it amusing, while a narcissist only exploits those he believes is a threat. If you are dealing with a sociopath, stop playing his games. He enjoys pushing your buttons just for the fun of watching you squirm. If you are dealing with a narcissist, don't feed his ego and avoid falling prey to his traps.
Even if your ex is not really a sociopath or a narcissist, going through a divorce plays havoc on your emotions. The person who remains calm and collected usually has the upper-hand during divorce proceedings (not to mention, relationships in general). During this time of turmoil, you should consider scheduling an appointment with a skilled divorce coach. A professional can help you vent out your frustrations and make rational decisions.