Cheating Husband: Duty to Warn New Girlfriend of Psychopathy?

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Reader’s Question

I have a situation in which I am uncertain what my responsibility might be.

I am presently separated and struggling through a divorce from a sociopathic man not formally diagnosed but whom I firmly believe is a sociopath. He is without empathy and without a conscience. His main drive is to out-game whoever he targets. He doesn’t want just to win (get something), he loves to crush others, and he will even sabotage his own best interests in order to make sure the other person knows they were completely outsmarted and dominated.

He cheated on me. A lot. No surprise anymore. He did it because he felt entitled to do it. I never felt pity for the other women because I felt they got what they deserved from him (when he eventually ditched them) because they participated in my humiliation and gloated about it while he was cheating with them.

But my husband’s latest girlfriend is not like the others. She is from a little town, and her father is well-known for being very abusive. Her mom got custody of her when she was little. She grew up and married a very abusive man and is now getting a divorce. And she thinks she has finally found the great love of her life in my soon to be ex-husband. He is treating her as he did me at the beginning. Worse, she has young children. I feel sorry for her because she has no idea what she’s getting into.

I have a daughter who was quite young when I married, and due to his mind-games over the years, she nearly committed suicide. Both of us are finally repairing our lives. I don’t want another woman to go through what we’ve been through.

What is my responsibility? I’d feel so guilty if I didn’t say anything and this new girlfriend ends up suffering like I did. She has kids, and it pains my heart to think one of them might go through what my daughter went through.

I need an objective opinion about this.

Psychologist’s Reply

One of the key features of sociopathy (or as it is commonly called these days, psychopathy) is that a person is capable of superficial charm and great seductive and manipulative skill. As a result, those they “target” in relationships often don’t know what they’re in for until it’s too late. This seems to be what’s fueling your desire to warn this woman about your soon to be ex-husband.

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You admit, however, that your husband has no formal diagnosis and that you certainly struggle with conflicted emotions about the pain you and your daughter suffered in your relationship with him, thus potentially biasing your viewpoint. But you also seem quite sure that he displays two cardinal features of the psychopath: no empathy and no conscience. You also appear to be responding to the situation with his new girlfriend differently from how you reacted to his relationships with other girlfriends. That appears to be because this woman was genuinely victimized before and does not appear to be of questionable or adverse character herself.

You do not have a clear “duty” to illuminate this woman. However, you might gain some peace of mind by having a simple meeting of the minds. You can be honest about your reasons for terminating the relationship with your husband without going into the gory details or mercilessly trashing him, thus potentially triggering a “Romeo and Juliette effect.” Beyond that, you have no responsibility other than to yourself and your family. Hopefully, your experience has taught you enough that you will be much more mindful of potential dangers in future relationships.

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