When getting married, we usually promise to love our partners, comfort, honor, and keep them for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health for as long as we both shall live. Sometimes a moment comes when you can no longer stand being married – especially when dealing with a spouse with Antisocial Personality Disorder – and decide to end your relationship. (Since Antisocial Personality Disorder is much more common in men than in women, this article assumes that the male spouse is the one with the disorder – although it is equally applicable if the female spouse is suffering from the disorder.)
Being the initiator of divorce increases your chances to blame yourself for breaking a promise and leaving your partner who suffers from a psychological disorder. Guilt is one of the most basic emotions most people feel when separating from someone with whom they shared a bond (or thought they shared a bond). Because a mental illness is responsible for their spouses’ aggressive behavior or repeated disregard for the rights of others, women often unreasonably take the fall for breaking up the marriage. If you happen to be the one who divorced or is considering divorcing a spouse with Antisocial Personality Disorder and cannot stop feeling guilty, here is what you need to know.
5 Tips for Managing Guilt when Divorcing a Spouse with Antisocial Personality Disorder
1. Don’t shoulder responsibilities that are not yours.
In most cases, both parties contribute to a marriage collapse. However, if one of them has Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), chances are strong that he or she contributed the most to the demise of the marriage.
And you cannot simply forgive your partner all his misdoings. Brains of people with a personality disorder function differently from a “normal” adult brain; at the same time, a diagnosis does not define someone as a person. Of course, a personality disorder influences people’s characters to a certain extent (some more than others). However, there is an individuality behind all the symptoms, even in the case of a mental illness. As for ASPD, it allows people to act consciously. They can still choose between acting on all their antisocial urges and trying to be the best version of themselves by finding ways to curb their impulses.
This disorder is not curable, but it is manageable. People with ASPD can undergo therapy, practice mindfulness, or use medications to manage their behaviors, but only if they want to. If your partner is unwilling to make the effort to get better, it is his choice to take the path of least resistance and ignore your needs.
2. Don’t think your partner won’t survive if you leave him.
Due to his behavior, your partner may easily get into trouble and make enemies. By divorcing a spouse with Antisocial Personality Disorder, you declare your unwillingness to help him if he does something wrong again. You may not be able to get rid of the feeling that everything will get worse for him after you leave. But not giving him an opportunity to realize his vulnerability, you do not allow him to grow emotionally and become more responsible.
Besides, people with ASPD are not as defenseless as they may seem to be. They always look for how to benefit from any situation they face and would do anything to make others recognize their rights, so your partner will probably make things work without you.
Taking the role of a rescuer and a caretaker may be rewarding for you in some way or another. Analyze your inner needs and feelings. You may be unconsciously engaged in a Karpman drama triangle and act from a childish position, although it may look like you are wise and mature.
3. Don’t blame yourself for not being a superhuman savior.
There is a romantic notion that love can change people completely – or at least make them into the very best versions of themselves. It can make you think it is within your power to fix your partner, show him what true feelings are and what it means to empathize. It is sometimes difficult to think otherwise because in the beginning, your partner may have been charming and wonderful. You might think you are not good enough to fix his personality.
The thing is there is no princess from a fairy tale who can melt the shard of ice out of his heart. Your partner simply cannot feel love the way you do. People with ASPD may fall in love, but they still perceive it in a very peculiar way. They often confuse this feeling with obsession – a mix of curiosity, focus, and a fear of boredom – and it does not usually last long. Their need for constant stimulation may manifest in cheating, physical or psychological abuse, and other bad doings.
By divorcing your spouse with Antisocial Personality Disorder, you express your refusal to be his toy, source of entertainment, or punching bag. Accept the fact it has never really been love from his side, and that you may have been looking for something from him that he cannot give to anyone.
4. Don’t give in to manipulation.
People with ASPD would definitely take prizes at manipulation skills competitions. They are also very suspicious and take a proactive approach in defending themselves from real or perceived threats: they attack first, ask questions later (or never). Your partner can accuse you of things you have not done, and it would sound really logical and legit.
If your spouse has already caught you in a web of his false beliefs, it may be hard for you to see the situation clearly. You may not be able to see where he has stretched the truth to its breaking point, nor the fact that his accusations are constructed from a foundation of lies. truth is on your side.
Keep in contact with your family and friends, and ask them to comment on your situation. Even better, consult a psychologist to get an unbiased opinion and understanding of what’s really going on in your marriage.
5. Reserve the right to live a happy life.
You have to understand that it is your right to be happy (assuming you don’t violate someone else’s rights for it). There’s no need to sacrifice your well-being to fulfill wedding vows your spouse can’t keep, or out of a sense of obligation imposed by him and others.
Don’t be afraid to seek psychological help! Even if there was no physical abuse in your relationship, we now know that words can be just as damaging as physical blows. Work on creating a psychological and real distance from your soon-to-be ex or former partner if he easily triggers negative emotions in you.
Do whatever you can to let go of your guilt over divorcing your spouse with Antisocial Personality Disorder. Your guilt helps no one and serves no purpose other than making your life miserable. Spend your energy on people, relationships, and pastimes that increase feelings of joy and self-worth. You deserve to be happy.
Linda Cartwright is an educator and a writer who provides writing help to her clients. She is currently working on her own book about education technologies