Every so often, I get an email from someone asking me whether or not I think their significant other is a psychopath. This is a tough question without meeting the person, and I must note that I do not have a degree in forensic psychology. Having been in a relationship with a psychopathic serial killer, however, I have learned a thing or two about red flags. Before I get into red flags, though, I should note that sometimes flags can be “pink flags”. “Pink flags” are things that might make you raise an eyebrow, but don’t raise the hairs on the back of your neck. If there are things that don’t make sense in your relationship, and your partner’s story just isn’t quite coming together – listen to these “pink flags” because something is likely wrong.
Red flags to identify a psychopath have been written about a lot, but I am going to highlight some that are a little less discussed in popular media. If you recognize any of the below signs in your partner, you might want to run…fast:
1) Instant love connection – have you seen Frozen? Remember the part when Ana falls in love with that dude whom she just met? Remember when she almost died and that same dude revealed himself as a punk ass mother F? Well, this was Disney teaching us about psychopaths. (bravo Disney for trying to make up for allowing young girls to think that true love happens at first sight.) Psychopaths are intense and work to shower their target with so much attention that it is hard to not be taken with them and believe that you have fallen in love quickly. If you feel this way after the first date, slap yourself. I am not ruling out the possibility of just having a good date and enjoying yourself, but most normal people don’t stare at you the way a psychopath does. Most normal people are slightly cautious on a first date and don’t try to make you believe that there is an instant love connection.
2) “Everyone else is crazy”- Are you dating someone who has been divorced several times? Does he/she claim that she is just unlucky in love, and that all of his/her ex’s have been “crazy”? While I can completely understand making several bad decisions, there is something wrong if the person is claiming that all his/her ex’s were nuts. Psychopaths like to make it seem like everyone else is nuts. If they are well into their adult years, they have likely already made lots of enemies. They might even still be in litigation with some of them. If you meet someone who has a child, and who claims to not have a good relationship with the mother/father of their child because that person is “crazy”, it is possible that the real “crazy” is the person you are with. Luc was famous for claiming that so many people who had come and gone from his life were nuts. The only common denominator for all of these people, however, was Luc himself.
3) The Scary Rage: Before I met Luc, I used to think that people don’t really “look” crazy. Well, except for maybe the person wandering the streets screaming about cameras that have been installed in their teeth by the US Government – I guess I always knew those people looked crazy. But before Luc, I thought those were the types of people who looked crazy. Luc was great at hiding his crazy. Most of the time when he was angry, he would try and leave the situation or attack back in some weird passive aggressive way.
There were some times, however, when he would go into a psychopathic rage. The first time I saw the rage directed toward me was when I told him that I could not afford to pay his mortgage by myself. His eyes seemed to turn darker, his eyebrows crinkled, and the screws appeared to loosen in his head right before my eyes. He screamed, irrationally, that he would never forgive me. Just as I began to collect my things and try to walk out (and he saw his money walking away), things changed. As quickly as he went into the rage, he seemed to snap out of it.
4) Pathological Lying: We all know people who stretch the truth for story value. A psychopath, however, will get off on full out lying. Often, they are trying to cover up some deep seated insecurities that they have, or they just want to see if they can make someone believe something isn’t true. If someone is making grand claims that seem as if they cannot be true, it is quite possible that they aren’t. Not only would Luc lie about himself, he would often set his son up by lying about his son’s abilities. He would claim things that were impossible for his son to achieve, thus setting him up for grand disappointments (not to mention abuse when he couldn’t live up to these outlandish lies). Luc would also make incredible statements, before asking people to check the truth of the statement on Google. I guess Luc banked on nobody actually checking up on his lies via Google, or maybe he just figured that even when they realized it was a lie he would be long gone.
5) Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory, perception, and sanity. Instances may range simply from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.
I would often get into arguments with Luc where he would say something incredibly verbally abusive (or contradictory), and he would deny having said it. He would go on about how he wished he had tape recorded our conversation, but he must have known that if he had a recording it would only prove that he had actually said what he was denying. This behavior came to light glaringly during Luc’s deposition for our custody case. Per his usual behavior, Luc denied saying something inflammatory. My lawyer, determined to prove that Luc was doing this, had the court reporter rewind the tape and play it back. Once it was proven that Luc said the very thing he was denying, Luc attempted to twist the story in another direction.
Gaslighting can be really scary for the victim. The psychopath will do things to make you feel as if you are living in chaos without knowing the cause. He/she intends to disorient you, and make you believe there is something wrong with you. For example, a couple of days after Prince was born, I changed Prince’s diaper and handed him to Luc while I took a shower. When I came out of the shower, Luc began to yell at me about how I was a bad mother because I hadn’t put Prince’s diaper on correctly. To this day, I am sure that Luc intentionally took Prince’s diaper off and messed it up just so that he could chastise me about it.
This list is by no means exhaustive. There are loads of other bizarre things that psychopaths will do. My number one point of advice, however, is that if you feel that something in your relationship isn’t right – listen to your gut. While psychopaths are really good at catching their targets, it is hard for them to keep up the mask for very long. Watch for these moments when they lower the mask. When they lower the mask, don’t stick around long enough to dig their claws into you.