Their crimes are often described as victimless. But there is rarely a crime that is truly victimless. Ask the hundreds of families who lost their life savings to the two I already mentioned. And think about their own families. Imagine the devastation of being outcast or ruined—financially, socially, emotionally—all because of your affiliation with “that guy.” Bernie Madoff’s son, Mark, committed suicide two years after his father’s arrest, leaving his wife and children to fend for themselves in the wake. The damage trickles down.
In psychology, we use the term “psychopath” to describe these folks. More commonly, they are referred to as “sociopaths,” but both terms refer to the same personality type. They are likely to appear to embody all the wonderful qualities every girl dreams about. They draw people in with that outgoing and friendly charm, but it is eventually revealed to be quite superficial. Among other qualities, they tend to be very cunning and manipulative. They are often pathological liars with little capacity for love, empathy, or warmth. They are not likely to feel shame or guilt, and they tend to have a complete lack of remorse. They can be entitled, grandiose, paranoid, secretive and contemptuous of those who question their intentions. Alone, these personality features don’t make anyone a criminal. But often someone who is a criminal of this type will exhibit these features.
Does this sound like anyone you know?
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What are the warning signs?
The real question is: “what are the Red Flags that you might prefer to ignore?”
It starts with a strange feeling somewhere deep in your gut. It’s almost palpable. You are a smart woman with great intuition. Something isn’t right. You’re not getting the whole story. But he answers every question with an almost satisfying, though vague, response. And because you need to believe in him, and in the future you imagine for the two of you, you accept it. “He must know more about this than I do. He’s really smart. He is doing what’s best for us.”
And that’s often the message. “Just trust me and I’ll take you to the moon.” He knows best. He’s going to make your dreams come true. Somehow, you—the shrewd, intelligent, talented, independent woman you’ve always been—have bought into the notion that he knows more than you do. You are made to feel that you couldn’t possibly understand the intricate details of what he’s doing. And you need to believe in him or what kind of partner would you be? He has got it all under control. And that makes you feel safe.
That nagging “something doesn’t feel right” eventually becomes outright lies that further complicate things. At first you question him, but you always get the same vague, semi-plausible responses. Then you start doubting yourself. “Maybe I’m misreading this. Maybe I’m overreacting.” But the nagging feeling persists.
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Finally, he turns it on you. He tells you “you’re crazy” or “what’s the matter with you.” He is absolutely indignant that you would accuse him of being less than completely trustworthy. So he turns it around so that something must be wrong with you.