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Married to a Psychopath: 12 Basic Tips for Leaving an Abusive Relationship

Updated on May 16, 2017
Karli McClane profile image

Karli writes as a therapeutic outlet and with the hope that her articles will be useful to others who have suffered psychological abuse.

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing


Love or Stockholm syndrome?

I am not a licensed mental health practitioner. My advice comes from having lived with a psychopath for several years and from my husband's experience with divorcing a borderline personality disordered individual. When I originally drafted this article, Valentine’s Day was coming up, and this was meant to be a humorous post that called attention to a serious subject. It gradually morphed into an advice article. People who have survived toxic relationships can, understandably, have difficulty finding much humor in the ordeal.

There’s a big difference between love and Stockholm syndrome. Love is given freely, by choice. In the case of psychopaths, you do not “love” them for their “good side”, because they do not have a good side. That’s a mask they wear, an act. Understanding this is key to successfully escaping, staying gone, and learning how to avoid abusive personalities in the future.

Just to be clear, I’m not knocking romantic relationships. I just want people to be sure that the person they become involved with is a decent human being who is capable of love, empathy, compassion, etc. and not a controlling, manipulative, gold-digging, soul-sucking ghoul. Abuse is not limited to violence; it can be verbal and psychological. Emotional scars sometimes run much deeper than physical ones.

NOTE I have a tendency to point out women abusing men. This is because it DOES happen, and I want to make people aware of it. I think that women get away with more, because people don’t want to believe that we are capable of doing any real damage to another. The truth is though, men and women alike can be victims.

Have you ever been in a toxic relationship?

Did you leave one?

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Committing to A Sociopath: Your Initiation Into Insanity

Exchanging vows is supposed to be an act of devotion between two equal partners who have each others’ best interests at heart and want to grow & change with each other for as long as they have in this existence. And it can be. But not if your partner is a sociopath. Ah, they can be so charming at first. They can convince you that they are the best thing to ever happen to you, the answer to your prayers, everything you could ever hope for in a mate. But if their mask of sanity hasn’t slipped a time or two before you marry them, it inevitably will come all the way off sometime afterward.

These highly dysfunctional monsters rarely ever say what they mean, and wedding vows are no exception. When you marry a personality disorder, you may as well vow to sacrifice your own health and to acquiesce to her every demand until she grows tired of you or until you drop dead, because that's basically how she interprets your legal commitment. I now pronounce you victim and succubus. You may kiss the beast.

Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You

Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You
Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You

This is an excellent resource for anyone in any type of relationship with a toxic individual. Learn how you are being manipulated and controlled, how you are allowing it, and how you can start standing up for yourself. Susan Forward, Ph,D. is a licensed therapist and the author of several self-help books.

In Emotional Blackmail, the author describes actual dilemmas faced by some of her real clients as examples, and then she breaks down the dynamic between her client and the individual the conflict is with. She further discusses what the client needed to do to empower him or herself in order to stop being taken advantage of.


Thinking about leaving your abusive partner?


1. PLAN YOUR ESCAPE Seek out a qualified attorney, do everything you can to protect your money and property, and basically just get everything in order.

2. COVER YOUR TRACKS If your abuser finds out that you are attempting to leave, there will be hell to pay. Do not do any research (regarding your exit strategy, psychopaths, sociopaths, personality disorders, etc.) on a shared computer, be sure to delete texts and phone calls from any attorneys, accountants or therapists you are in contact with.

3. TELL TRUSTED FRIENDS AND RELATIVES THAT YOU ARE PLANNING TO LEAVE YOUR TOXIC MATE Tell only those whom you are certain will not side with your abuser. These people will be your support network.

4. EXIT AS PEACEFULLY AS POSSIBLE If at all possible, take your personal belongings and get out while your mate is not home. Otherwise, have one or more of your support group with you to act as a witness. If your spouse has violent tendencies, it’s probably a good idea to have a police officer present while you gather your belongings.

5. REMAIN CALM IN FRONT OF YOUR KIDS Whether you have to leave them with your spouse, or whether you are the one taking them, do not lose your cool. Especially if your abuser becomes a drama queen or maniac.

6. CONSIDER TELLING YOUR BOSS Once you remove yourself from your crazy clown, be prepared for that person to try to sabotage your life. Getting you fired (by calling repeatedly, slandering you, making threats, etc.) will be one of the first routes they take, so you may want to warn your boss.

Relationship Red Flags (Humorous, but Useful)

When Exiting Dysfunction


1. ALLOW THEM TO PROVOKE YOU They love to push our buttons, but try to disengage as much as possible. You don’t want to wind up blurting out that you are planning on leaving. That would be very bad.

2. BE MANIPULATED It’s very possible they’ll sense something is up, and they will try to get it out of you any way they can. If they sense you pulling away from them, they will do everything in their power to reel you back in. Do not fall for the look-how-sweet-I-can-be routine. It’s an act.

3. BE COWED BY ANY THREATS OF SUICIDE This may very well happen right after your departure. It’s usually nothing more than a pathetic attempt to guilt you back into the unhealthy relationship. However, if you are concerned, call 911.

4. GO BACK TO YOUR CONTROL FREAK BECAUSE THEY THREATEN TO HARM YOUR CHILDREN OR RUN AWAY WITH THEM This is so common and so sad. Call the police. Besides, if your partner is capable of harming their own children, how do you know they won’t harm all of you, once you return?

5. BE ASHAMED TO SEEK HELP FROM A QUALIFIED THERAPIST Depending on how long you were constrained by your personality disordered partner, you could have some deep seated issues that you need to resolve. You’ll also want to make sure you don’t wind up attached to another one of these crazy people. Also, there’s a good chance you’ll be feeling some emotions that you had to keep suppressed for a very long time, and you might not know how to handle them.

6. FORGET TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF Many people in abusive relationships neglect their own needs, always putting their abuser first. With your newly earned freedom, you can start a fitness routine, eat healthier, sleep better, watch what you want on t.v., read the books that interest you, spend time with friends and relatives you may not have seen in a while, make new friends of your own, take up a new hobby, the sky’s the limit!

Don't Look Back


Set Yourself Free

People stay in toxic relationships for all sorts of reasons. Some of the most common ones are fear for their own safety, fear of losing their children, and fear of losing belongings and finances. Seek legal counsel, and find out what your options are. It's also helpful to talk to a therapist, if you can find a good one whom you feel comfortable with. Come up with a solid escape plan that you can gradually put into action. Most importantly, make sure your spouse remains unaware of your plans and any contact you've had with lawyers and therapists.

© 2015 Psycho Free Zone


Submit a Comment

  • Karli McClane profile image

    Psycho Free Zone 9 months ago from USA

    Ah, I remember that movie; you are correct about the title. Thank you so much for taking time to read my article.

  • grand old lady profile image

    Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 9 months ago from Philippines

    This is a very interesting article with lots of compelling information. I also think your practical list of things to do is fantastic. It reminds me of this movie that starred Julia Roberts, I think it was Sleeping With the Enemy.

  • profile image

    Julieann 21 months ago

    Forced to marry him, threats of the worst to my kids, left home because of mother threatening me with lies, swear I would not end up with this again.30 years later still in this horrific marriage . STUCK TO THE MAX!!!!! Don't have sex with him, about 5 or more years, maybe 15 to 20 times in 30 years, his way not mine , now I see why he pushed me away, now I see why I get sick seeing him, 4 daughters, three olsedst ones are like him, the youngest, my most precious, my .... More like me daughter,,was killed in a car accident , buried her on her 19 th birthday, 13 years ago, his abuse has gotten knowingly worse, I don't leave my house anymore, just too sick and down, cancer almost killed me, or I should say, he is worse than cancer!!!! I would go through chemo any day rather to be with him...

    Can't leave because he will make sure I get nothing.......nothing....nothing

    He is in a very high position in goverment....knows all the high paid deystuctive lawyers.........evil judges .....even if I was not slaughtered with lies and what ever..... Even if a mirical happened and I got money in the divorce......he would never pay it.....he never goes to jail for abuse.......they listen to him and his lies about me.......they all seem to dispise me and blame me........I'm sure because he has talked lies of me to everyone even in my church..........I don't attend anymore because of the mean jealous women who want to hate me because of my then, beauty and live what I believe, unlike them.....I want to live what days I have left alone, I am alone anyway, but with out can I leave and have a place even tiny place of my own , pay for it and my needs !!!!!!!! This has always been the issue!!!! Can't have friends ....he makes sure of that one way or another same with a job.......I cry so much 90% of the time.....can't wear make up anymore cuz of the crying. I want to live!!! NOT JUST EXIST..... I want to matter to someone in the world!!!!!! If I was killed one would even know I was missing!!!!!! Really need answers!!!! Prayer has not changed things that I can see, or maybe it would be a lot worse than it is... either's not right......feel abandoned by God also.... So I really feel alone......could just burst with wanting to love people and help others without getting anything in return.....just want to give to others soo bad.....want to live ....want to see happiness in others.....there must be answers .........have no where to go but homeless or under another's control...... I'm almost 60 and need to make my own choices with out others telling me "no "or "I must or else" until I see someway that I can do this ,that is not I have heard before by counclers who have their own agenda or really don't understand the gravity of it all.....I must stay until I feel it feels safe to leave in all areas of abuse. I can't jump into the fire because the pan is too hot.......can't leave this abuse only to realize.....I was better off with , warm place , or cool place, water, bath etc.....than to live in the streets micro little dog Tinkerbell is very ill and needs medical always. Vet comes here in a medical van and is very expensive. She has been there for me more than any person.....she will go toe to toe with the husband. She is under 3 lbs. but very much protects me with razor sharp teeth she draws blood quickly from her victim ! She fights for me and will die doing it..... When I have a seizer...... She lets me know about 5 min. before so I can get to a safe place......found her before I knew I needed her.....I have to care for her with money also. Until a person walks in my shoes , feels my fears, pain, and the sufferings I have had to live with.......oh ...and all the judgments thrown at me.......for not just leaving my abuser......don't need anymore judgments....... Just answers that are realistic !!!

    "Just leave the abuser "or "go to the women shelter "or "domestic violence people can help" short term is not my goal or I will be back in a mess again..... And no family that I can turn to..... If any of these things were an opption........I would not be in this place 30 years ago!!!

    All these things plus more I have done and only ended up back where I started.....abuser just got more skilled at hurting me for the next time.

    Gone to church for help. Just more abuse and stress to get someone to listen.

    Gone to community for help. Just more abuse and hurt.

    Gone to counclers in this town where we live now....WOW......feel as if they have the same issues the husband has.....then I heard ....a lot of them do have bad agendas.......okay wow that was awful to go through.

    Tell a person that you meet.....they avoid you now....... It feels just awful!!!!

    Guess I am supposed to :

    Dress up

    Show up

    Shut up

    Smile anyway

    Go home to:

    Show up

    Shut up

    Listen up

    Want nothing

    Feel nothing

    Need nothing

    It all feels the same

    Feel I will be misunderstood here also! Hope not. When I was young , could do anything cuz people are more likely to help, especially if your pretty, when older and a women, ignored most the time....this is my exsperiance.......(misspelled word) . When I read others looks easy to just leave him......but I see it might be not as easy as it seams... But if you have family , job, friends, why not leave ????? If I had just one of these things .....I would leave and never look back!!!!! But again I do t know all of it.

    Maybe this is what keeps us close to the one hope we have .....if there is life after death.....and a God......that is where we turn in desparate times. Having hope and faith to have reason to believe that he will put a door or path in front of us to walk away.......still waiting and hoping and praying , fasting, shutting out tv, or any other unclean human things to make a path for the pure and holy to reach us when we need saving......but I am losing my faith and my hope.....only you know when the time is there and a door is opened that is ment for you and you alone.....not a false door that others see is a way out for you.....and then they drop you cuz you don't walk through it . They don't see the reality of the door that is open or path.... They are not skilled In This area to's not like it seams from their perspective....until you have went with much hesitation cuz you see it's not as it seams to the untrained , inexperienced eye.

    Only you will know when that door opens for you to leave with no hesitation..... You will know!

  • Jay C OBrien profile image

    Jay C OBrien 2 years ago from Houston, TX USA

    All good advice, especially about getting a good lawyer. My viewpoint is from that of a child. My mother married a paranoid schizophrenic had my brother, then me and then got divorced. My brother is also paranoid schizophrenic.

    My mother then married a war veteran who had PTSD and eventually divorced him due to abuse. It is not nice to shoot at people in the house.

    I learned to observe people carefully and keep my mouth shut. I also learned to analyze people and their fundamental assumptions. I got a J.D. and am a retired peace officer. My upbringing with mentally ill people made me uniquely qualified to do my job as a peace officer.

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Excellent step by step instructions for anyone about to exit an abusive relationship. Leaving is the best decision they can make, but the the rest of it is vitally important to keep you and your children safe!

    There IS help. There IS support and best of all, there is life...a better life after an ugly situation. Bravo ....great hub. Peace, Paula