Excerpt: 'Getting It Through My Thick Skull'

But twenty-two years of all of these behaviors in tandem established a pretty convincing pattern. There were plenty of warning signs along the way, if only I'd known what I was looking for. Living with a sociopath disrupts every part of normal life—sex, money, parenting, employment—and I scrambled around for twenty years trying to patch up all of those areas, never once realizing that there was a bigger problem. "Why can't you get it through that thick Irish skull of yours?" was my mother's constant refrain when I was defiant teenager. She bemoaned my thick Irish skull so often that it became a running family joke. My grandfather used to commiserate with my mother when she was at the end of her rope with me: "What's the sense of being Irish if you can't be thick?"

After years of grief and worry, not to mention a bullet to the head, I finally did get it through my thick skull. I'm quite clear about what was really going on with my ex-husband and former marriage. But I might have been saved all those years of doubting myself and hoping against all hope that things would change if I'd just been in possession of the knowledge and information I have now!

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.

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