7 points to remember about dating and predators

[This post is by Donna Andersen from Lovefraud.com and the Lovefraud Blog. The goals of Lovefraud are to teach people how to know when love is a con and to wake them up to the danger of sociopaths.]

As human beings, we all want love and companionship in our lives. It’s a basic human need, right up there with the needs for food, water and shelter. When we are lacking an intimate relationship, most of us try to fill the empty space. That leads to dating.

Here is what you need to know about dating and predators.

1. Evil exists.
What the evil is called—psychopath, sociopath, antisocial personality disorder, narcissist—really doesn’t matter. There are evil people out there, and they can be found in all segments of society—rich, poor, male, female, all races, all religions, all communities. They look like everyone else, but they are predators.

2. If you are dating, you are a target.
As an unattached person, you’re probably feeling a bit lonely—that’s why you’re looking for dates. This is natural and understandable. What you need to realize is that predators specialize in targeting lonely people. They know exactly how to find this vulnerability and exploit it by seeming to take the loneliness away. They shower you with attention, flatter you and promise you a lifetime of happiness—exactly what you’re looking for.

3. Meeting people on the Internet is extremely dangerous.
Yes, there are normal people on dating sites. But there are also predators, and communicating via the computer you do not have the tools you need to spot them. Most of the true meaning of conversation comes from nonverbal cues—voice, facial expression and body language. None of that is available in an e-mail. So what do you do? You fill in the missing pieces with your imagination, and the person becomes what you want him or her to be. You fall in love with a fantasy. For more information, see Internet Threat and Online Seduction on Lovefraud.com.

4. Predators are often charming.
If you meet someone who is glib, charismatic and has a quick answer to every question, be aware that these traits may indicate excellent social skills—or a psychopath. Pay close attention to what is actually being said. Are there gaps or inconsistencies? Is the person evasive? Does the person change plans or break promises—and always has an excuse? If you’re nodding your head, proceed with caution. For more information, see Key Symptoms on Lovefraud.com.

5. Watch for the pity play.
According to Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door, the best clue that you are dealing with a sociopath is an appeal to your sympathy. If you’re dealing with someone who tries to make you feel sorry for him or her, blaming other people or “the system” for his or her problems, consider it a warning that the person may be a sociopath. For more information, see The Pity Play on Lovefraud.com.

6. Predators are often great in bed.
Many people who were involved with sociopaths have told Lovefraud that the sex was amazing. Sociopaths are often skilled lovers for two reasons: First, with an excessive need for stimulation, they are hard-wired for sex. Second, they get a lot of practice, often with anyone who comes along. In reality, sociopaths want only two things: sex and power. They do not feel love.

7. Do not ignore red flags.
Maybe something seems wrong but you can’t put your finger on it. Perhaps there’s a nagging feeling in your gut. Pay attention. Do not let him or her explain away your doubts. Do not tell yourself he or she has gotten a raw deal and your love is the solution. To avoid becoming the victim of a predator, your instincts are your best defense.

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37 thoughts on “7 points to remember about dating and predators

  1. The magazines (men’s and women’s) are full of advice of how to come across great on a date – be confident, attractive, doting, etc. You seem to be saying that if someone comes across very well, beware?

  2. Donna,
    Posts like yours are a great public service. I’ve already used up more than my allotted bandwidth here on the disease of romance, and I’ll just say Amen.

    I’m guessing on this and have no data, so I welcome correction. Intuition tells me the social monster uses love as control–I love you only when you’re being “good.” If so, that would seem to be an important warning sign, not only for major monsters, but for the lesser crippled and deformed ones as well. If you’re going into a love relationship with someone, it better be someone who promotes your autonomy and personal growth rather than someone who measures your worth by your satisfaction of their egoistic needs.

  3. Donna, you make the case so well. It’s a model for other bloggers. Bite-size pieces; each point is strengthened by the one before it; no fluff. Just great content. That’s the way to get your message across.

    And it’s an NB message too! Thank you.

    I’ll run my eyes down your heading before making any rash decisions.

  4. I can vouch for the pity play thing. They even have a way of making you feel sorry for them when THEY have done something wrong against YOU.

    And red flags? They’re red for a reason. Don’t ignore them.

  5. AMEN!!!

    Another good read is Sandra Brown, MA’s “The Emotional Predator” in her HOW TO SPOT A DANGEROUS MAN book. She also gives example of what kind of women these guys go after.

    If only people believed it could be them at ANY TIME and NO ONE is immune.

  6. mensch: Isn’t taking advice from magazines on how to “come across” rather dishonest? Because what if the person’s NOT the things they’re attempting to portray?. How long is that person going to be able to keep up that act after you’re married & living with them.
    If dating is just about putting on a little act, like a play on a stage, what good does that do for you in really getting to know someone?

  7. “Does the person change plans or break promises-and always has an excuse? If you’re nodding your head, proceed with caution.”

    I’m glad this is mentioned because it’s been a pet peeve of mine my whole life. In the past, over the years, I had several friends, as well as people I’ve dated, who habitually seemed unable to stick to plans without having problem after problem. Usually an excuse, sometimes not even a good excuse. I can’t say any of them really matched the sociopath description, but some of them had various disorders.

    I would always lose patience with people like this. And of course they’d accuse me of being “too rigid” or that I “expect too much from people”. And I’d try to see it their way for awhile. Until becoming absolutely fed up and saying to hell with them, and just dropping away from them altogether.
    I had people who told me that my “window of acceptable behaviour from friends, and particularly the opposite gender, is too narrow”. Many of them didn’t use quite that phrase, but it’s the one that sticks in my head. Basically I was told that my standards were too high, or my expectations from people were too high.

    At some point I cut through that bullcrap, and thought – okay, so I usually don’t have a problem sticking to plans, I don’t find it so difficult. And I’ve had a friends over the years who are also considerate & stick to plans most of the time, seemingly effortlessly. If we can do that, why can’t they?
    But it seemed like with some people, they acted like someone wanting them to be considerate was tantamount to asking them to climb Mount Everest.

    Of course I now know the truth of it, and understand some of what was happening there.

    In some cases, these people probably had some serious mental/emotional problems that functioning normally probably was like climbing Kilamanjaro for them. But it’s their responsibility to get help with that. If they refuse, it’s not my responsibility to sacrafice myself to someone’s untreated mental illness.

    In some cases, the friend was just using me as a back-up. They really didn’t care about me at all, they were just afraid of being alone, or not having anything to do, or not having enough friends. So they clung to me as best they could, but didn’t have any motivation to respect me.

    And in some cases I think they might’ve been playing games. Like it’s a way to keep someone off balance. I think some people use this as a dating strategy that I can’t fathom.

    Or, in some cases, I think they consciously or subconsciously, wanted to see how much I would put up with from them. Sort of that they needed people to prove they cared about them by putting up with their nonsense.

    I knew of this couple several years ago. They were both in their mid-20s. The young lady would blow off her friends to wait for him, just in case he would see her, because if she went out with her friends, and didn’t get to see him, he’d say, “Well, you were out with you’re friends.” He would rarely, if ever, make plans in advance, so she never knew when she’d be able to see him. He was often out with his friends. Which it’s fine to have friends. But then he broke up with her, and the reason he stated was because “She had no social life of her own, she was always waiting around for me to do something with her.” He seemed clueless to the fact that he put her in that position by declaring his affection, and then deliberately denying her any kind of normal schedule. She was damned whatever she did. If she went out with her friends and wasn’t available to him, she was the one who didn’t care about him. If she waited around for him, she was a pathetic waif with no life of her own.
    I honestly don’t know if this guy did this on purpose to her or not. But either way, it was a lousy dysfunctional way to operate.

    Over the years, I’ve watched many couples self-destruct this way. I don’t understand quite why anyone would think a relationship could work this way. Obviously normal healthy couples don’t operate this way. Even if there’s no sociopath involved, it’s just not functional.

    Of course there’s one way to be completely immune from this — as it’s stated in this post.
    If someone can’t stick to plans, and you don’t put up with it, and refuse to see them at all, they can’t get you into that destructing relationship in the first place.
    But you have to be willing to “take the risk of remaining single”, a prospect many people often find scarier than a destructive relationship, so they remain susceptible to the unscrupulous.

  8. ian – I have the idea that the true psychopath cannot actually feel self-pity (he can portray it very well, as you say) while the narcissist can. This relates to one of their principle differences. Because and through his refusal/inability to really get down and down on himself, the psychopath forces that secret inner state onto others. Thus the cruelty; when he sees another squirm he feels good – the inner dread and despair is out (for now).

    barbara – A brief description of what kind of women these guys go after would be most enlightening. Can you recall it well enough to say?

  9. Here’s an excellent example of those trap-a-man books:

    I’ve read parts of “How to Marry the Man of your Choice” by Margaret Kent (you can read quite a bit of it on-line if you’re curious), and, “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” by Patricia Evans.
    It was STRIKING how the tactics described in Kent’s book, that she suggests women should do to trap a man, are identical to the tactics described in Evans book, that she describes as ways men abuse women & keep them trapped in abusive relationships.

    In my opinion, anyone who calls that trap-a-mate stuff self-improvement should stick to home improvements. I’d sooner take dating advice from Bob Vila.

  10. Martha Stout also has a list with a few more rules, but I think her 3rd rule is worth mention. It is the “Rule of Threes” that she says should become your personal policy in any new relationship. “One lie, one broken promise, or a single neglected responsibility may be a misunderstanding instead. Two may involve a serious mistake. But three says you’re dealing with a liar, and deceit is the linchpin of conscienceless behavior. Cut your losses and get out.”

    Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, Christian psychologists, wrote Boundaries in Dating (an easy read written for the more youthful reader, scripture based, yet still very worthwhile reading). They do a great job of walking through lies and deceit in recognizing impossible behavior. And they address the other part of the problem we need to understand also, us, the targets. Remember all those red flags we ignored? There is good insight in this book.

    I have reams of articles and shelves full of books I read trying to determine just what I’d gotten into. Then I found Lovefraud and Donna’s story. I found my perspective and so much more. I don’t think a finer example of courage and sharing the wealth exists. Many thanks again, Donna.

    Dr. Steve (another perpetual fountain of information), FYI are you aware on Lovefraud there is a section on “Preferred Prey” that describes attractive traits, and a quiz “Are You a Target?” to see if your personal traits make you a good target for a sociopath?

  11. I like the rule of three as a protective device. I also like posting your vulnerabilties on the door of relationship as a way to protecting yourself from yourself and to initiate a measure of control early on. I think we’ve all experienced making excuses for someone else we feel we shouldn’t excuse and shuffle our worry beads in silence. You may scare a few people off who are afraid of such openness, but those who stay may be worth it.

    For example, as soon as it becomes appropriate: “If we’re going to have a relationship, there are somethings I need to tell you. I’m attracted to competent, highly organized people–like you–who know where they’re going. But they sometimes act like I’m just along for the ride. I can’t handle that. And I have a thing about reliability and trust. I work at being trustworthy and reliable, so I value it highly in others. When trust is gone, there’s no relationship. How can you give someone you don’t trust another chance?”

    I’m not suggesting a psychological strip-tease. On the contrary, it’s more like mapping your warts, wounds and scars, and saying, “Now that you know where they are, I expect you to protect them.” Then later, you don’t have to suffer in silence, wondering if you’re over-sensitive, or “How could (he or she) know how I feel?” My guess is the psychopath will promise everything but be unable to deliver much of anything. When you’ve “published” your vulnerabilities, both you and the other know what you’ve declared. Your self-respect will probably keep you from enabling victimization. It’s also a way to assert a measure of control in the relationship.

    If it works out, you will be reciprocally expected to take on responsibility for the other’s vulnerabilities. But if you have two people mutually vulnerable in a relationship, probably neither one is. I think that’s what of us want for a love relationship.

  12. dm-smith – “Publishing one’s vulnerabilities”. I like it.

    Given the concerns we’ve been considering the last few weeks, I figure that the demand for honesty, reliability, etc. should be published whether or not they’re vulnerabilities, if you get my drift (if only self-published).

    (D’oh! I mistyped ‘honesty’ as ‘honestry’ – a slip combining honesty and sophistry? I suppose I can’t help publishing my vulnerabilities!)

  13. Dr. Steve,
    I was trying a short cut. Trust and reliability seemed like a starting point for almost anyone, and I think you have to start where you comfortably can. And I didn’t want to get into illustrative bios. Ultimately, the vulnerabilities posted have to be the ones that are the real concerns for the relationship. I think they do need publishing–made public–between the two persons to be effective controls.

  14. Dr. Steve
    I wasn’t going to say anything, but as the association seems important to you . . . what’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say “clandestine Mesopotamian quips?”

  15. Pillage in the name of Allah. What a great illustration when the new relationship is with a psychopath. The generally accepted rules of dating do not necessarily protect you or give you a measure of control, however. I too believe in being very direct and open. The psychopath will stay, depending upon his goal, but at this point you have no idea what that is.

    But when you map not only your warts, wounds, and scars but your values, beliefs, and goals, you have just given an already-armed Bin Laden the keys to your city. He will effectively use each insight you’ve given him against you. You’ve given him a map of how to destroy you if are not vigilent in guarding your boundaries. And don’t forget, though you probably deal honorably, he will not. The real concerns for the relationship, though thoroughly discussed and mapped by both of you, in actuality hold no meaning whatsoever for him though he has done an exemplary job of convincing you and building your trust in him thus far.

    The rule of three’s is a great concept, but what if with the stealth of a September terrorist, you have not yet spotted the deceit? And hindsight is always 20-20.

    Of course reliability, trust, and honesty are required, but that can’t be the litmus test because perception is not always accurate. There is something more important and telling. People who can handle confrontation and feedback are the ones who can make relationships work. But also remember, by the time real hurt and confict occur he may already be well enmeshed within the gates of your relationship depending upon just how “slealthy” he is, and time and emotions certainly contribute to the difficulty in accurate perception. Also remember you are emotionally involved, he isn’t.

  16. Benzthere:
    You’re absolutely right in your critique. When you’re emotionally committed to a relationship with a psychopath, it’s too late for any strategy except “Goodbye!” But my suggestion is to post at the door of a relationship, before one becomes emotionally committed. The posting is not to achieve intimacy, but to state the terms and conditions by which the relationship will be evaluated. Most relationships are controlled by 80% emotion and 20% drift. The post-its function, hopefully, like pylons for both parties–wake up, don’t go there.

    Bin Laden may have the map, but you know it, and he can ignore it or use it against you only if you allow him. Any strategy requires that you must be able to act in your own interest. Nothing will work for people who try to trade victimage for love.

    I should have included the following in the initial post: this “post-it” approach to relationships was given to me by a friend years ago who after a divorce from an abusive husband found herself “irresistably” drawn to the same type of male and into a series of abusive relationships. (Like her husband, her father was a brusque business executive and a wife and child beater.) She compared her life with men to the grade school slide: you know where it ends up, but you just keep sliding down it again and again. She finally got fed up with it, and at some point, when she and a male were mutually attracted, she said, essentially, look, we’re both adults. We’re attracted to each other and there’s no reason we shouldn’t enjoy the attraction. Forget about love–it’s somewhere down the road if it happens. There are some things I want you to know. She scared a lot of males. But it ended her relationships with abusive males and has worked for some others she and I have recommended it to over the years, including a couple of males. But nothing is perfect in life, and I suppose you might open the door to a Bin Laden.

  17. DM-Smith,
    Thank you, I so appreciate your insight. Just a couple clarifications.

    You are so right, once the mask is removed, goodbye is the only option. But the goal from hello is maniplation, domination, and control and what better way for the psychopath to achieve that than to convince you he is exactly the man you are looking for, so perfect that your love for him will bind you and/or blind you to him by the time Dr. Jeckyll turns into Mr. Hyde, or so he schemes.

    The posts were at the door of the relationship, not to achieve intimacy but straight forwardly to say who I was and what I was looking for, the direction I was going, and how I planned to get there. My usual spiel when I meet someone, more as we get to know each other. I didn’t allow him to use anything against me and victimization had nothing to do with it. Understand he was role playing, and I handed him his perfect script. We had many commonalities to begin, but he became exactly who I had told him I was looking for. From first just a friendship, he became “the man of my dreams” over a period of many, many months.

    When the mask begins to slip, the transition from something very good to something very evil is difficult to comprehend. The loss of a dream is more difficult than the loss of someone evil, but deep betrayal without regard is difficult to understand.

    I am honest and open, just always have been and expect the same in return. I have been divorced many years and have enjoyed meeting and dating a variety of different types of men, some good and some not so good experiences. But this was something entirely different.

  18. Benzthere, And thank you for your insight. I’ve not been in a relationship with a psychopath, and I appreciate your “up close and personal” experience–which is the ultimate test of any thesis. So far as I know, none of the people who employed “post-its” were involved with psychopaths. So I’ll trust your experience and agree its probably not a wise approach if a psychopath is at the door. But how do you know? Be careful of something which is just what you want it to be?

  19. You hit the nail on the head, and therein lies the problem. Here’s an old but popular love song title as an example, “She’s (He’s) close enough to perfect for me.” That’s how it’s supposed to work anyway.

  20. dm-smith and benzthere – a wonderful and enlightening exchange!

    Good enough, perfect enough…and this is precisely where all those magazines are leading people astray – don’t settle, Mr. Right, you’ll know it when it happens.

    I’m sorry to say that a woman’s friends can sometimes be less than helpful too: either they encourage her to cut him more slack than he deserves, or they suggest that he’s not perfect enough for her. Often she gets both pieces of advice about the same relationship.

    Male friends? Generally not evolved enough to give considered advice about relationships, and when they do it’s just as iffy.

  21. I agree with Benzthere. You tell a manipulator how to manipulate you more easily, it’ll just be harder to spot, they’ll just be better at it.

    I think trust is a gradual thing. You put your cards on the
    table little by little, and see if the small stuff is used against you, or cherished or respected. You share a small soft spot perhaps, and see if the person utilizes it the next time they don’t get what they want.

    In fact, I would even go so far as to recommend, for those especially who are wary about trusting again, that it’s not over the top to actually make up with some kind of “soft spot” that’s totally fictional, that holds no emotion for you, but that you can use as a testing point. Certainly nothing deceitful, of course. I don’t mean make up some kind of story that’s not true. I mean something small & minor. Such as a strong dislike of something – like a colour, an animal, insect, or a food.

    I actually used this test on someone with NPD, and they fell right for the bait. They used the fictional sore spot the first opportunity where they were being passive aggressive.
    It was like this person couldn’t help himself when he felt not on top, he had to do anything, grasp at any straw to upset or demean another person. It was breathtaking.
    He was the sort of person who, I could just imagine that if his new girlfriend told him she hated peas, the next time she didn’t act like he thought she should, he’d punish her in a really passive aggressive way. He’d make a show of cooking her dinner (what a great guy, how grateful she should be), but with a big nonchalant smile, set in front of her, a plate with peas mixed in with everything else on the plate. And then claim he didn’t remember that she hated peas.

  22. LOL!
    I thought you were referring to the passive aggressive bait & switch there.

    I’m telling you, I saw this in action, with more than one person, and when I realized how clever it was (because it is), that’s what finally convinced me that the person I was dealing with, was not… Well, he’d act dumb if you ever caught him and confronted him about it. He’d even claim wanting to stop doing this “unhealthy behaviour” or “self-sabotaging”, he’d make it sound like he really didn’t know any better. Like he was just so intellectual that he had other things on his mind, and just hoped people would give him some leeway… While attempted to “be better”.
    To this day, I still wonder – maybe it WAS that automatic for him, that he wasn’t really totally conscious about it.
    But after I saw him do some pretty elaborate underhanded passive aggressive schemes like this on people, I became convinced that it had to be deliberate. That he couldn’t pull it off without at least a degree of conscious thought, no matter how automatic.
    And after getting caught in the situation of trying to explain something to him, 50 different ways, and him claiming to still not understand… I stopped believing that he didn’t understand, and decided that he just didn’t want to understand.
    But I can just imagine how someone who spent a lot of time with him, or someone who was in love with him, like a wife, or god forbid children… Would totally be invested in buying into that crap.

    Dealing with such an extreme example of a disordered person did teach me one thing though…
    If you have to educate a grown adult on common courtesy & thoughtfulness, the cause is hopeless from the get-go. Let alone if you have to explain the same issue more than once.

    I don’t even explain it once anymore.
    If they claim they don’t understand, & plead or that kind of thing, I tell them to go ask 10 people, hypothetically, what’s wrong with the situation, or what the right thing to do is, because it’s a conflict of interest for me to go into it with them. (Which, in some sense is true. It’s a boundaries issue – where you shouldn’t be educating/parenting a co-worker or friend.)

    Anyway, yeah, I guess I didn’t think of my suggestion as a strategy, except I guess in the sense of a defensive strategy.
    And again, I’m not telling anyone to go out and tell whoppers. Like “My mother was run down by a bus, so now I don’t like buses”, when your mother is alive & well & riding the metro bus transit system twice a week to go shopping downtown. lol
    That would be hard to explain, in a big way, if the person you were dealing with turned out to be OKAY… if the person was okay – they’d probably determine you are NOT. ha ha.

    Something like “Snakes freak me out” when really, they don’t, you just don’t like them, is something that is plausible (lots of people hate snakes), and later you can just dismiss & smooth over as you’ve come around or whatever. Or you can just come clean (well into the time you know they’re OKAY), and it would be something minor enough that the person wouldn’t question your sanity or your honesty based on it.

    I’ve known at least a guy or two, who, if the gal they were dating said she’s afraid of snakes… A few weeks later he’d be out buying one as a pet.
    Some aren’t so obvious. Some guys would just linger forever in the reptile house when he takes her to the zoo.

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