Do you know one? apparently 2/10 people are Sociopaths (I made the figure up as I can't remember
There's a picture of me that takes my breath away. It shows me on my wedding day; flowers in my hair, laughing towards the camera as I wrap my arms around my handsome new husband.
Cameron, my groom, is looking at me. In a green suit, with hair falling across his forehead and a broad smile on his face, he is every inch the perfect partner.
I used to think those familiar, green eyes were filled with love, but now I catch my breath when I take a closer look — they are cold and soulless. On this, the happiest day of my life, I had unwittingly given my heart to a sociopath who was later going to strip me of my dignity, strength and money.
Mel Carnegie had unwittingly given her heart to a sociopath who was later going to strip her of her dignity, strength and money
I thought I’d fallen in love with the best man in the world. But Cameron had learned to mimic emotions he was expected to show in certain situations — he worked out what I was looking for and deliberately morphed into that perfect being.
An estimated 4 per cent of the population are sociopaths like Cameron — that’s 272 million people — so it’s likely many of you have had similar experiences.
Sociopathy, otherwise known as antisocial personality disorder, is defined as ‘a pervasive pattern of disregarding the feelings of others’ which begins in childhood and continues into adulthood.
Sociopaths usually have a lack of conscience and may also have a history of impulsive behaviour.
But because they’re highly intelligent, entertaining and charming, they blend into society. The truth is it’s just an act. Falling in love with one will break your heart.
Five years ago, I realised I’d been married to a sociopath and started writing a blog. As a result, hundreds of women contacted me claiming they, too, were victims.
But let me tell you about Cameron. He was a typical sociopath: deceptive, consistently irresponsible and, worst of all, had no remorse about his actions.
His guise lasted for ten years until the sham crumbled and I realised I had married a monster.
When I met him in August 1998, it was love at first sight. I was a 32-year-old single mother raising my son Dylan, three, in Sussex. I was a development coach when I signed up for a week-long team-building course and met Cameron, then 29.
Mel believed that he was the perfect gentleman and she could not believe she had met somebody so wonderful, but that soon changed
Handsome, 6ft, with a flashy sports car, he was like a character from a Jilly Cooper novel. He smiled rakishly as he introduced himself: there was instant attraction between us.
He was the perfect gentleman and I could not believe I had met somebody so wonderful.
Four days into our course, we were sitting together when Cameron took my hand and said: ‘We’re going to be together.’ I was in heaven.
He moved in to the three-bedroom house I shared with my son. He adored Dylan and at weekends we would stroll along the seafront like a proper family.
Cameron would pour me wine, buy me flowers and give me CDs of love songs. He also loved to quote romantic lines from films: his favourite was taken from Jerry Maguire: ‘You complete me.’
I’ve since learned that quoting films or lyrics is typical sociopathic behaviour.
Unable to understand emotion, they watch it carefully on films, then mimic the words and actions. In her book, The Sociopath Next Door, Dr Martha Stout says a main technique of sociopaths is intense charm — and Cameron had bags of it.
In October 1999, we married. Cameron handed me a card which read: ‘Thank you so much for choosing me to be your husband.’ I thought it was a typical, thoughtful gesture.
Since talking to other victims of sociopaths around the world, I’ve realised they often write notes along these lines.
They relish the impact of such grand statements on paper without having to actually express them in person.
Cameron and I launched a management training consultancy, and as business boomed we rented a flat in Manchester. Cameron started to go up during the week to manage clients, while I stayed in Sussex. He would email with huge red letters which said: ‘I love you for ever.’
In August 2002, we went on holiday to Corfu — and suddenly my loving husband seemed distant. When we made love, it was mechanical and rather than wrap his arms around me he would shrug me away. When I asked him if there was something wrong, he blurted out: ‘I just don’t feel the same way about you.’
Sociopaths usually have a lack of conscience and may also have a history of impulsive behaviour. But because they’re highly intelligent, entertaining and charming, they blend into society. The truth is it’s just an act. Falling in love with one will break your heart
I asked if he had someone else and he exploded with rage. When he apologised later, he said he felt I was so strong I made him feel useless. This kind of manipulation, blame and guilt are all typical tools of a sociopath.
When we got back I logged into his email account. On it, I found a note sent to an old male school friend via the Friends Reunited website.
‘Great to reconnect. I could still beat you in the gym — and with the girls. Just left one on the South Coast to live with another in Manchester!’
I’ve never known anguish like it. Cameron sent that email, but it was as if it was written by a stranger.
The swaggering style and the fact he had another woman. Over the next two days I could not eat or sleep. I rang Cameron and said: ‘I know about your other woman. Do you have anything to say?’
There was a pause, then Cameron replied: ‘No.’ No emotion, no remorse, he simply ended our call by saying ‘OK’, as if I’d asked him to buy milk.
As a typical sociopath, Cameron could feel no real emotion. With no conscience or empathy, sociopaths don’t respond as others do. In fact, Dr Robert Hare, the world’s leading expert on sociopath behaviour, says the only emotion they feel is annoyance they have been found out.
To this day, I don’t know how Cameron persuaded me to get back together with him a few months afterwards. He convinced me he still loved me, and he’d had a breakdown which he was embarrassed about.
I ached to be back with him and, after weeks of pleading, I agreed to give our marriage another go. When he suggested we buy a farmhouse in France and move there, I instantly said yes.
Looking back, I realise Cameron wanted to isolate me from my friends.
The move also gave him another false identity. He started boasting he was bilingual — he spoke schoolboy French — and strode around like the lord of the manor. I ignored it because I was thrilled to have my warm and loving husband back.
Sometimes I would rage at him and scream and cry, but he was so apologetic, telling me his cheating was a one-off and a horrible mistake.
I discovered my seemingly devoted husband had been on sex sites and for 18 months had even had a profile on a singles website describing himself as fit, 40 and flirty (stock image)
In December 2008, Cameron was going for a few days of skiing when I noticed he’d been using Facebook on my laptop and hadn’t signed off.
A message popped up in and I spotted lots of kisses. I saw, to my horror, a list of flirty emails sent by Cameron to another woman. My eyes filled with tears as I read: ‘I missed the chance for a dance, another time,’ and, ‘I hope I might have been less of a gentleman if we danced...’
His last message made me retch. He boasted: ‘I am what you call in married land — for now.’
I contacted our mutual friends and one of them told him what I’d found. He never returned home.
The last I heard from him was a one-line email sent that week saying he was innocent of any wrongdoing, to which I replied: ‘Lies, lies, lies.’
A few days later I discovered my seemingly devoted husband had been on sex sites and for 18 months had even had a profile on a singles website describing himself as fit, 40 and flirty.
After that we spoke only through lawyers. I divorced my husband and haven’t heard from him since that email. I couldn’t believe how stupid I’d been taking him back: his cunning deception had been so convincing I’d fallen for it.
Dylan is at university now and I’ve not found real love since my marriage ended four years ago. One day, I still hope to meet an honest man. But the experience has scarred me.
I’d like to warn others about the dangers of sociopaths — once they set their sights on you as a target, you will feel loved like never before.
But even in love, if something appears too good to be true, it probably is.
THE 10 DANGER SIGNS
Sociopath expert Dr Robert Hare has devised the following checklist to help people recognise sociopathic traits.
1. SUPERFICIAL charm. Smooth, engaging and charming, a sociopath will never become tongue-tied or embarrassed.
2. OVER-INFLATED sense of self-worth. Sociopaths believe they are superior human beings.
3. PRONE to boredom. They feel the need to be stimulated constantly.
4. PATHOLOGICAL liars. Sociopaths will be deceptive and dishonest.
5. MANIPULATIVE. They will say and do anything to deceive and cheat others.
6. LACK of remorse. No sense of the suffering of their victims.
7. LIMITED range of feelings. Don’t expect them to express anything other than happiness or sadness.
8. CALLOUS. Cold, contemptuous, inconsiderate and tactless are apt words to describe them.
9. THEY live a parasitic lifestyle. Sociopaths are often financially dependent on others.
10. THEY can’t control their behaviour. When challenged, sociopaths will appear irritable, annoyed and impatient.