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I think my son is a sociopath

(58 Posts)
AltheaVestrit Mon 28-Apr-14 19:37:33

Where to start?

Last Friday I had fetched my 18mo grandchild. When I got home with him my dad and son were already in my house. We had a cup of tea and got ready to take the dog out. Because I suspected money had gone missing from my bag I keep it by me when at home. With the kerfuffle of DGC, cups of tea and getting the dog ready I had left my bag in the kitchen.

Before I left to fetch DGC I had put in £40 (2 x £20). When I checked the contents as we were about to set off on our walk there was only £20 in it. I knew the money had been taken in the last 10 minutes, so it could only have been my son who had taken it. I confronted him and when I asked where my £20 was he said "it's in my pocket. Sorry mom, sorry". I took it back off him, told him to get out, and that I should be calling the police. I didn't.

My son's situation is dire ATM. His partner (the mother of his child) asked him to leave the family home about a month ago. Son was made redundant in February, and from what I can gather they were arguing a lot and he was generally unsupportive as a partner and father. He's supposed to be starting a new job in May, and we hoped that once he was supporting the family financially again, they could sort their problems out and hopefully get back together as a family again.

He was welcome to stay with us as long as he followed the house rules - basically keep yourself clean and tidy and tidy up after yourself. He declined and has been staying at my dad's house around the corner. Family are coming to visit dad this week and he asked son to move out for a few days. Dad assumed he'd be coming to me. Well, after the thieving incident that wasn't going to happen. Son sent me an email saying "Hi mom, ok to stay with you a few days? Love you." I replied that it wasn't ok.

So, I don't know where he is staying atm. I'm worried about him, but he doesn't seem to acknowledge that his stealing is a problem. I suspected he's been helping himself for ages, but i doubted myself. I even confronted him a couple of times over the last 6 months or so when I thought I should have had more cash in my bag than I had, but he denied taking it and left me feeling very confused.

In fact, this incident has brought things to a head for me.

He's lied a lot in the past. It's mostly been stuff that he knows I want to hear, but there've been a few incidents where his lying has got him into trouble. We have extricated him from trouble with the police, where if he'd told us the truth in the first instance we could have advised him how to sort it out easily. But his continued vehement denials he was any way involved lead to him going to court with a solicitor. And when we had irrefutable proof that he was involved, he continued to deny it until I pointed out that the people we'd spoken to about the incident must also be lying. You could see the ratchets in his brain clanking away until he realised all his lying options weren't going to get him out of trouble and he finally admitted his involvement.

There's other things he's said and done which made me wonder how on earth his brain works. He's rubbish with money. He wants instant gratification. With his redundancy money he bought himself a PS4 when he was advised to wait until his new job started before treating himself. He's made a mess of paying the rent on the house my DH and I bought for him and his partner to ensure our DGC had a roof over his head.

We've bailed him out so many times and each time we thought well, he must have learned from this. But no.

Over the weekend I read the thread in Chat about sociopaths and I think he ticks a lot of the boxes. It appears there's no cure for someone who has no empathy, no conscience and doesn't believe they are or have a problem at all.

So, where do I go from here?

Offred Mon 28-Apr-14 19:42:42

I don't think he's a sociopath. It's more likely he's just never learned to be responsible because you've always bailed him out.

SolidGoldBrass Mon 28-Apr-14 19:46:28

Is there any history of drug use? Lying and stealing are often signs of money being spent on drugs.

AltheaVestrit Mon 28-Apr-14 19:56:02

Offred, you may be right in that we've always bailed him out. But what strange circumstances to have bailed him out of. No other young men I know tell so many lies or get themselves up shit creek without a paddle so often without realising that for every action, there must be consequences. I repeat, what do I do?

SGB - no, I don't think so, but what do I know?

Shortchange Mon 28-Apr-14 19:59:41

You need to let him suffer the consequences and not bail him out.

ihatethecold Mon 28-Apr-14 20:04:19

He sounds just like my DS.
Same pattern of behaviour.
He made his young family homeless twice, first by stealing the housing benefit. 2nd by setting up a cannabis farm in his loft.
I don't know how his girlfriend stays with him..
I don't have contact anymore. I had 10 years of lies, stealing and heartbreak.

I had to move on for the sake of my sanity.

HauntedNoddyCar Mon 28-Apr-14 20:10:18

But he never has been up shit creek without a paddle has he? You always give him a paddle.

wyrdyBird Mon 28-Apr-14 20:22:26

This must have caused you huge stress over the years, Althea.

Forgive the cliche, but there are no easy answers. However, others on MN have been where you are, or are there now, and I hope they'll find a way to this thread.

Why not try a look at 'In Sheep's Clothing' by George K Simon.

He pulls no punches when it comes to dealing with people who manipulate (eg by lying or gaslighting). He suggests quite a robust approach. It may be a starting point.

PrincessBabyCat Mon 28-Apr-14 20:28:09

You can be a jerk without being a sociopath. Calling him a sociopath is giving him in out by saying he can't help it because he has a disorder. This is just looks like another way to bail him out. wink

Hope your situation gets better.

AltheaVestrit Mon 28-Apr-14 20:31:49

Wordy bird, thank you so much! That's what I call help. I'll look it up ASAP.

And no Haunted Noddy Car, not every time he's been bailed out. I've given a few instances of the things I've dealt with. There've been others he's had to sort himself. And then there'll be those I don't know about because he knows that they will upset me so he won't bother telling me.

Ihatethecold - sorry to hear what you've been through with your son. Do you wonder if you did anything different when he was growing up he would have be more responsible?

Pleasedontstopthereading Mon 28-Apr-14 20:34:50

Poor you, this sounds so difficult.

I don't think your son sounds like a sociopath, though flowers on the limited information you've provided, of course. I bet his mindset runs along these lines:

It's ok, I'll pay it back before she notices it is missing.
If I tell the truth, they'll be let down. I'll sort it.

He's sticking his head in the sand. I think he's made some mistakes - bad mistakes - but sociopathic? No.

I hate saying this as it is not your fault and I don't want to suggest in any way it is, but I never learned to manage money. My parents bought everything: they weren't stingy with me but I never had a budget to stick to. They never showed me how to. When I got money I spent it. It became a really bad habit. When I ran out of money I'd get it in other ways, I never stole but I certainly did some extreme things to keep spending. Spending made me feel good. I ran up a lot of debt.

I can understand the redundancy money - it's like "need to treat myself." I've never been made redundant but it's horrific I think.

Talk to him. Let him know you love him, you want to help but not by bailing him out. My dad won't let me talk about financial problems - he shouts and shouts then gives me money then complains I made him give me money. I can't talk to him and say "look, I've got a debt," - can your son? Again I'm not blaming you but staying calm and letting someone come to you can work wonders. I second SGBs suggestion about drugs.


Troubled and misguided people don't equate to bad people.


ihatethecold Mon 28-Apr-14 21:04:53

It's a very long and complicated story but in essence. Yes things possibly could have been different if my parents had butted out, I was young when I had him and they used undermine me and replace things he had lost or possibly sold.
I wasn't very well off and used to try to make him understand that there are consequences to losing things.
To make him understand the value of things.
My parents did the complete opposite.

I also chose to have a child with an abusive arse which didn't help.

I think about him everyday but he has done some god awful things to family over the past 10 years.

HauntedNoddyCar Mon 28-Apr-14 21:18:06

Op you did say you'd always bailed him out.

BrunoBrookesDinedAlone Mon 28-Apr-14 23:01:05

He just sounds like a liar and a thief and a coward...

Not necessarily anything else.

My advice? Get on the phone to his poor ex-partner who's now bringing up their child alone (as if she was ever not doing that, by the sound of it!) and let her know you're there to help.

mummytime Tue 29-Apr-14 06:15:34

I think you need to know tough love. He could have some kind of mental issue, but that means he needs to see professionals, not be bailed out by you.

elizalovelace Tue 29-Apr-14 08:39:52

Op stop bailing hin out.Help with your DGC. Be strong, your son needs to grow up and learn responsibilties. Ihatethecold,i feel your pain.

ihatethecold Tue 29-Apr-14 11:04:06

eliza thank you

althea I really hope you get things sorted, you have my best wishes but I'm leaving the thread.
It brings up to much hurt for me.

Sorcha1966 Tue 29-Apr-14 14:47:00

my son is like this (theft and lying) He has aspergers syndrome - its not the reason he steals , but I think it has some bearing on the lying.

tough love. No bailing out. No hand outs. No he cant stay because he STOLE money from you. Help DGC (and the child's mother) but he needs to sort himself ....

Psypher Tue 29-Apr-14 15:14:29

He's not a sociopath. You can be a feckless, thieving twat without any underlying cause, you know.
If I'd taken your money and you'd asked me about it, I most certainly would not have admitted it straight out, more likely I would have denied all knowledge and made you start to doubt you had ever had the money in the first place.

LiberalLibertine Tue 29-Apr-14 15:20:57

How old is he op?

PoundingTheStreets Tue 29-Apr-14 15:25:16

None of us can comment on his mental state. To my mind it sounds more like a personality disorder than sociopathy, but it's impossible to diagnose over the internet and there may actually be nothing wrong with him at all.

What matters is the effect this is having on you. You can't control your son and you can't "retrain" him now he's an adult either. All you can do is decide the terms on which you want to have him in your life. Take steps to protect yourself while continuing the relationship. Be kind when you can but remain firm. Do not let him borrow money and do not give him the opportunity to steal it from you. If he asks for help, consider whether it's a reasonable request and respond accordingly. If he messes up, don't gloat but don't step in either.

Sometimes that may be hard. For example, if he turns up at your house after you tell him he's not allowed, so you tell him to leave and he won't, you call the police. If he's like the many people out there like this, he'll rant and rave at you, storm off in a protest that he'll never speak to you again, and casually call you a few days later as if nothing's ever happened.

You won't change him; only he can do that. But if you think hard about what boundaries you want in place and stick to them, you can maintain a relationship with him while protecting yourselves. There will always be emotional pain for the parent of a child with such a pronounced streak of self-destruction though, and for that I'm really sorry. flowers

CailinDana Tue 29-Apr-14 15:29:56

He could have some disorder, perhaps not sociopathy though. Sociopaths are quite cunning, he sounds pretty childish really.

There are quite a large proportion of people in the world who come across as quite functional but in fact are incapable of leading an independent life. My sister is one, and your son sounds like another. If my sister was less academically able she would have received extra help at school and perhaps be in supported housing now. But she can read and write like any 33 year old, and so she has had no help, despite being functionally incapable of leading a normal adult life. She lives with my parents who still, after 33 years, labour under the hope that she will one day suddenly be cured. She won't. It's incredibly sad.

horsetowater Tue 29-Apr-14 17:02:00

Has he every done anything good?

You seem to dwell heavily on the mistakes he's made which so far seem to be money related.

Why would having an income improve his relatioship? Does his ex only love him when he's earning? Is that why he took yours out of your purse?

Also I think you are giving him mixed messages by renting out your house to him.

struggling100 Tue 29-Apr-14 20:08:38

He doesn't sound sociopathic... He's not nearly charming enough!! He sounds selfish and irresponsible, and there is no excuse for that. The thing is, when he acts up and does something stupid, you are always there ready to bail him out. So what incentive has he got to take his life on like a grown up?

You need to protect yourself from him, and that means letting him make his own mistakes and pay for them. That is the only way he will learn. And you need to let him know that no I do think there is a good chance that he will be able to do this: the fact that he owned up to stealing the money this time may be a good sign.

AltheaVestrit Tue 29-Apr-14 21:03:55

He's 23. He's very charming and laid back. On a certain level he can be very good company.

I suppose I mentioned the money issues because you'd think with his responsibilities he'd look to provide for his family. I don't understand why he doesn't put them first.

I am supporting his partner. She is now the named tenant so she won't have any housing problems. We have our grandchild with us ATM. He's into everything so DiL can have a break and get things done.

I mentioned the back to work thing as they wouldn't be in each other's company all day and whatever equilibrium they had before he was made redundant would hopefully have been restored. I think I'm being too optimistic though.

Psypher - I think you were very informative on the other thread I mentioned. There was no denying the theft this time. I knew exactly what had happened, and i was quite assertive. Before I may have said have you seen or taken any money, to which he'd reply No, and then I'd doubt myself. This time I demanded my money back and where was it. A different approach from which he could not wriggle. If he had denied it the outcome would have been the same because I just KNEW he'd taken it. There was no chance of gaslighting me this time.

He won't rant and rave if he doesn't get what he wants. He's quite gentle. He just shrugs and gets on with it.

It is time for tough love. I haven't heard from him since the email, but I know he saw his son yesterday, so he's still around. He must be dossing with friends.

I just wish I could get inside his head to see what makes him tick, like in Being John Malkevich. His actions have been so alien to me that I thought he must be from another planet. It is not how he's been brought up.

I wondered whether he had some issues which needed sorting. His biological father abandoned us when he was 6. His stepfather has been all you could wish for as a mentor, role model and is an excellent father figure. Many of my son's attitudes are similar to my ex-husband's, which gives me pause for thought on the nature/nurture debate. I wondered whether some sort of counselling would set him back on the straight and narrow.

Of course, as some of you said up thread, he could just be a nasty little shit. And I have to accept that.

Thanks for everyone's input

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