Excerpt: 'Getting It Through My Thick Skull'

This knowledge was so life-changing for me that I decided to write this book to try to help educate others about sociopathic behavior, using my own painful past as a prime illustration of a long marriage to one specific type. The list of sociopathic traits given above is an accurate description of what I lived with for years, and through my recounting of the Amy Fisher circus, plus other, more private moments between Joey and me, I will show you just how insidiously they were put into practice and how well they can be masked—especially when there's a willing victim. This is a key element in the life of any sociopath: a willing partner. Whether that partnership is a long-term relationship or only the passing illusion of partnership projected by the sociopath to further his or her goals, a sociopath is never completely alone. Like the first part of the word (socio, from the Latin socius, or companion) says, the sociopath only comes to power out in society, and their greatest skill in life, beyond any other talent they may have, is the skill to manipulate. For much of my life, I possessed neither the ­insight nor the strength to break that spell.

Apparently, I'm far from alone. I was amazed to learn just how widespread this condition is. Just as there was very little public awareness about autism thirty years ago, or understanding of what attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) meant twenty years ago, the general public doesn't realize how common this untreatable condition really is. Millions of women and men find themselves stuck in relationships they can't fix; heartbroken parents struggle with adult children who suck them dry emotionally and financially; long-­suffering friends and coworkers are continually exploited by those who put them into no-win situations and abuse their kindness. I want everyone to understand what sociopathic behavior is and to bring it to the forefront of America's conscience.

In doing the research for this book, I have had to go back, dig deep, and relive many episodes of my life that, quite honestly, I would much prefer to bury forever. As the months passed and I worked on this project—recalling many painful and humiliating incidents, some buried so deeply that only old headlines jolted them back into my consciousness—my family and friends grew concerned. "Why now?" they asked. "Why rehash all of this seventeen years later?" The answer is simple: by sharing my story, I hope that my experiences will save others from similar heartache. I wouldn't wish marriage or an intimate relationship to a sociopath of any kind onto anyone; my hope is that this book will inspire others to "get it" and get out far sooner than I did. I promise, there is a great new life on the other side!

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