Is my wife a sociopath?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I have been married to a woman for thirty two years and I have been persevering with what I consider to be some very serious problems. She has a very unusual lack of and often times a total absence of empathy, sympathy and understanding for even her friends and those closest to her including myself. She is a fair weather friend. She’s your buddy until you need her help and she stands her friends up without so much as a phone call. I have seen two friends of hers at different times become temporarily bed ridden and ask for her aid at which time she completely abandoned them and never saw them again. I was ill for 9 mo’s and unable to work, She consulted a lawyer and tried to have me thrown out of the house,sick with no job. When trying to discuss a marital issue she cannot bear the suggestion that she is doing something wrong and becomes defensive, angry and sometimes vicious, so when there’s a problem then I just have to live with it. She has a very unusual lack of remorse and was very cruel to the little dog we once had.

She is attractive, funloving, friendly, laughs and smiles alot and I’m one of the few who really knows what she’s like. Lying is a very common thing for her also. I wish none of these things were true and would love to say I’m a lucky guy to have such a wonderful wife but I can’t. I have re-read this several times and there honestly and truthfully are no exagerrations. Does it sound like she’s a sociopath? I will be much better able to cope with all these things if i can understand. Please help me.

A: There must be much about her that is compelling to you to manage this for 32 years. As you know, I can’t make a diagnosis on the basis of a letter. I can only tell you that the behaviors you describe are not sufficient to diagnose someone as having an antisocial personality disorder (sociopathy) or mental illness. Of course, I may not have a complete picture so I suggest you research this more on the web. However, your wife does show some antisocial behaviors that must be very hard for the people around her to understand since they are so much in contrast to her friendly and fun-loving personality.

One guess about her apparent lack of empathy and unwillingness to be wrong is that she is terrified of loss or loss of control and distances herself whenever either becomes a possibility. It’s a “you can’t fire me, I quit” approach to life that does fend off some kinds of pain but also costs her the closeness and intimacy that comes when people are there for each other in the hard times. Not willing to be wrong prevents a fight but also deprives her of the opportunity to grow. You’ve both adapted to her “rules” in order to stay married but your marriage is unlikely to be as intimate as it might otherwise be. I’m sad for both of you.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Apr 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). Is my wife a sociopath?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/04/21/is-my-wife-a-sociopath/