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What Were the Red Flags You Overlooked?

Dear Chump Lady,

I have a question that might make a good column, or a good repeat if you have already addressed this:

“What were the red flags you ignored when you were dating your FW?”  This isn’t chump blaming.  I want to know what the hell to look out for.  And who has more experience than the CN?  Cheaters can be so manipulative and charming… at first.

Not that I have any intention of dating again, it still could be helpful for those wanting to jump back in that pool.

I know I was a spackle artist.  In retrospect there were so many red flags.  In my defense, I had never (that I know of) known anybody with bi-polar/cluster B stuff going on.  But still.  I brushed off a 3am phone call where he screamed at me for an hour over a comment I made that he took offense to.  I can’t remember the comment, but do remember being shocked that he was behaving like that. It should’ve been a HUGE red flag.  I should’ve broken off the relationship then, but excused his behavior, believing his lame apology later that he was under stress at work.  There were many others, but that one was a stand out.  What was I thinking???

From your blog, and the help of CN, I’ve learned I need to set inviolate boundaries.  Not just with potential love interests, but with other people.  I want to be surrounded by people who share my values, which include honesty and loyalty.

Thank you.



Dear Ivyleaguechump,

Spackle is always good column fodder. It brightens! It whitens! Got some unsightly behavior you need covering? SPACKLE!

Don’t beat yourself up too badly, Ivy. We all make allowances, especially in the beginning.

Even healthy relationship possess a small degree of spackle. You overlook the bad morning breath, the way she leaves her shoes everywhere, how he drives 10 miles under the speed limit. You forgive. You’re a little deaf when she natters on about pinecone elves.

But bad relationships require loads of spackle. It’s the foundational substance. Spackle excuses the inexcusable and is the gateway drug to hopium. Hallucinating a commitment that doesn’t exist.

So, CN — from the time you met this toxic person, what might you have done differently? What do you wish you would’ve paid attention to more carefully?

It’s not victim blaming to consider the red flags. After all, we all want to learn from this shit and fix the picker going forward.

No one deserves abuse. No one asks to have their boundaries trampled. There is no shame in loving with your whole heart. Speaking for myself, there is some residual mortification as a chump that I allowed bad behavior up until the point I didn’t any longer. And those mistakes — learn from them! — became the basis of this blog.

Got any red flags you’d like to share?

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • One of our first arguments we were out on our motorcycles. This was before cell phones. He decided to discard me and take off on our way somewhere and not call for three days. That should have been it there and then. Instead I stuck around for 28 years. Looking back there was a ton of red flags but coming from an abusive family I had no idea they were red flags.

    • ^^^THIS^^^
      Your comment on “coming from an abusive family I had no idea they were red flags” hit home. The reality is, the chances are that victims from abusive families will end up in abusive relationships is between 92-95% and once victims experience an abusive relationship they are 90-92% to get into another one IF they don’t do the work on fixing their picker, healing past trauma, trauma bonds, etc.

      When my therapist gave me those statistics it royally pissed me off because what that meant for me is I was literally raised for failure bc I was trained (aka: brainwashed) to accept abuse from my narc father and step mother. I didn’t stand a chance bc I didn’t understand or have boundaries. I was taught that “when people treat you bad that means they like you”. Literally! That phrase was told to me over and over along with “forgive and forget”, “sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you”, etc. I did the hard introspection work on myself, learned about/how to set boundaries, and cut all toxic people out of my life. All of those things changed my life around to a healthy one.

      • I come from a loving but quirky family and had no frame of reference for bad behavior other than if someone was behaving in a “bad” way there must be a reason and we try to be understanding. My FOO members are eccentric but relatively kind and harmless. So odd behavior to me was just his personality. It slowly escalated over 35 years to something other than quirky. I now see that early behavior in a different light and realized that he picked me because of my accepting nature.

        • Spoonriver, I too was raised in a loving family. Mine wasn’t quirky but a little dull according to my teenager mind. As a 60 something year old, I know it was because there wasn’t drama in my family. Because of all this, I didn’t understand that there would be people (boyfriend) who would say they love me but cheat on me. I was ill prepared for that and stayed too long in that relationship. Now my life is filled with people who aren’t into drama. My life is peaceful now and maybe dull but it’s just the way I like it.

          • Same here 1P2P3P4, I couldn’t understand that some of the fun, funny, little off-color comments he made were things he actually thought. I didn’t think “normal” people didn’t actually have kindness in their soul and love in their heart for their family members. It came as a shock to learn people from seemingly ordinary families can be so disordered, and that the disorder gets worse, not better, as the relationship matures. I striving for an outwardly boring life now but it’s one that suits me so much better than one with the chaos of a FW.

          • Same here, One Potato. I was raised in a loving, stable family in a small Midwestern town in the 60s and 70s. I was very, very shy and kind of an ugly duckling, so I never dated in high school, nor in college, so I was way, way behind and incredibly naive. I dated a little in professional school, but not a lot. By the time I left school at 26, I was looking for a serious relationship and to get married, but I basically had no experience with men/relationships, and given my upbringing, it literally never entered my mind that men (or people in general) might not be honest brokers. I wouldn’t trade my childhood, but it did turn out to be a disadvantage with relationships. As odd as it sounds, that sort of upbringing can create its own set of problems.

        • My situation of FOO was pretty much the same. Like any family we had problems, but we were taught not only the golden rule, but to take care of ourselves etc.

          Honestly I am not keen on blaming FOO for cheating, or for being cheated on. I believe that in most cases we don’t see red flags because they are excellent liars and con artists. They hone those skills.

          Of course there are exceptions.

          I get our childhood is a part of who we are. FW’s dad was a alcoholic who was abusive to him mom (mostly verbal, and emotional) And since he was also a gambler financially, but that is no excuse for what fw did.

      • This stuff sure is resonating. In my case, I had a combo of family dysfunction (with a disordered mother) and extreme religion. So I was raised to believe that the Christian thing to do when somebody treats you terribly is to forgive and try to understand and fix.

        So when my FW became insanely out-of-control angry a month before our wedding over a massive distortion and misunderstanding of reality, I was convinced the “right” thing to do was to work with her to fix it. Trouble was she didn’t have any intention of fixing anything. And the concept of preserving myself was some sort of strange novelty I didn’t even know was a thing. I wish I’d understood that walking away was perfectly acceptable.

        • I also think my Christian upbringing made me stay far longer than I should have. I had left the church years before, but that stuff sticks. Divorce wasn’t something anyone I knew did. Consent, autonomy, self esteem (i.e. “pride”), the right to say no, etc. weren’t taught. Questioning authority wasn’t encouraged. Forgiveness was the path. Taking responsibility for your part. Loving someone into wholeness. Self sacrifice was the highest purpose in life.

          All of that mindset was hard to undo.

          My family was loving, I never doubted that. But i consider a religion that paints us as unworthy, that our good deeds are as filthy rags, that we need to be saved from our wickedness, and that we should turn the other cheek and forgive 70 times 7 (and that god forgives even the worst people) isn’t good. A god who says “love me and obey my commands or burn for all eternity” is abusive.

      • I got the “when people treat you badly that means they like you.” Along with, if a man makes you angry and says it’s cute when you are mad it means he likes you and you need to forgive him.

        Actually, this is emotional abuse.

        • My teeth grate to remember hearing “you’re just so cute when you’re mad.” It’s fucked up to have someone you love justify their behavior with this.

        • I’ve never understood what a guy is hoping to accomplish by saying, in effect, “You affect me positively when you have a negative emotion.” But then, I’m a chump, so I wouldn’t.

          • They’re basically saying that because your anger is not a threat to them, they don’t have to engage with it. If you paid their salary, you can bet they wouldn’t say that (unless they knew you already were under their thumb). It’s such a way of one-upping and saying, you have no bite, cute little barking puppy.

            • Never thought of it that way but you are right. Plus of course it is deflection.

      • Forgive and forget. Offer it up to god. Your reward will be great in heaven. Things my mother told herself while she stayed stuck with an abusive alcoholic. And also things she instilled in us, instead of seeing his horrible behavior through the eyes of a child and helping us realize our boundaries and agency. But Mother is a narc herself and still relishes to this day telling everyone else how to think and feel, just like my abusive ex.

      • It is painful how much I relate to these comments. I didn’t realize how abusive my childhood was until I went to therapy as an adult. I had to try numerous therapists until I found one that specialized in trauma. Absolutely all of them were horrified by my stories, and several of them cried.

        That’s when it hit me just how terribly I’d been let down by my family, and why I’d dated so many abusers. My picker had been calibrated for abuse and sociopathy from the cradle.

      • It sounds like it doesn’t matter what type of family you come from. If an abusive background, you tend to not see the red flag subtle abuse. If loving and nurturing, you tend to feel empathy and are quick to forgive micro-aggressions, and are unaware of how abusive people can be. You also can be too trusting, believing in the goodness of all people. So basically, nothing prepares you for betrayal.

      • That’s really tough but you have Forgive yourself. You can’t choose your family.

        I come from a family of God-fearing, honest Abes which put me at a disadvantage in dealing with my ex. For years I couldn’t fathom someone would do the things that my ex did. Believed bullshit excuses (having to stay late at work, and he owed money on his student loans…hence the creditors always chasing him down) or gave him the benefit of the doubt. Cause in my Pollyanna world, that sort of stuff (prostitute hook ups and serial cheating) only happened in Hollywood.

        When D day finally happened it blew my mind, altered my worldview and my marriage too. But what a great set of lessons to take with me in life. When you know better, you do better.

        At this point, I’m many years out and so happy with my life. I finally gathered enough strength and resolve to leave. 🙂

    • That’s growing up with people who are irrational, impulsive and abusive—and you think that’s how everyone is, other than the TV sitcom families.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head. Coming from an abusive family sets us up for these types of relationships. Sadly. But I am happy to say the FW is no longer in my house.

  • He had no friends. His relationship with family members were strained. Any new people that came into our lives he either got into an argument with them, or found a character flaw that made them unlikable. If I disagreed, challenged, or had my own opinion on something, I was quickly interrogated and shut down. He often portrayed himself as the victim, even if he was the aggressor.

    • Sad ha ha. This was the FW XW’s thing. In the last few years we were together, she started hinting that I was abusing her in some way.

      Let’s see:

      Physically? Nope, nope, nope. But I do clearly remember her throwing my keys hard at me (I have a LOT of keys) when she felt I was holding up her and her roller-derby friends by getting a last minute oil change for our car that was to transport them on a significant road trip.

      The closest I might have ever come to hitting her would have been on D-day. I didn’t even come close (might have raised my voice, made some remarks about what a cliche it was, her fucking her boss, and shed a lot of tears, but that was it).

      Mentally? The worst I believe I ever got (and I know I’m biased) was occasionally slinging back some negative comment about her, only after she’d said some crappy thing about me. She always started us off down negative roads, in my mind. Still not proud of my behavior.

      Wonder why I didn’t want to dance w/you towards the end, FW? Hmm, maybe it’s the fact that you repeatedly put down my dancing ability over our time together. And she was no great shakes at dancing herself.

      I would have loved to take dancing lessons w/her, but I was either working my ass off to support the lifestyle she seemed to want (money flowed freely for her) or trying to make time for her or our kids. And then being the big introvert I am, I would collapse at the end of the day and need a LOT of time to recharge my battery.

      Emotionally? Again, if I did, it was usually in response to something she did to me first. Not very proud of myself for that, either. But actual abuse? I don’t think I did anywhere near what she did to me.

      I think I’m very hard on myself, and maybe because of that I seem hard on those near to me. I know I’m not perfect or great. But I don’t think I’m an abuser. If anything, after the FW XW abandoned me, all the people I worked w/told me they thought I was pussy-whipped by her, because I always changed my schedule to accommodate hers (especially for her role in local politics).

      I never thought I was pussy-whipped. I simply tried when I could to make her life easier, because I thought we were actual partners in our marriage, and I recognized that she handled the majority of the work at home, so I tried to do everything else I could to balance things out better. I still felt like I didn’t do enough.

      Oh, and let’s not forget that I well and truly loved her! Imperfectly, sure, but it was real and deep. I didn’t realize I was replaceable to her (I never thought that way about her).

      So, in my mind, she was projecting/blameshifting the stuff she would do or was doing onto me.

      So glad I don’t have to deal w/that bullshit o hers anymore. At least, not to anywhere near the degree I used to.

      ChumpBucket, I’m so sorry you had to deal w/that bullshit too. Wishing peace for you now, and for meh to come soon. And joy. Fuckwit-free joy.😊

      • “ because I actually thought that we were partners in our marriage “
        That sounds familiar: I remember him telling me that by the age of 35 he wants to have at least one child, well established career etc.
        It looked to me as a nice plan, but I joked “ what if I want to focus on my career before we have kids”?
        His response: well, it won’t work for me….
        I thought he was joking/ nope.

        Going on a trip- he was a great organizer- I wanted to do something else than our listed activity. We ended up not talking for the next 24 hrs- him being mad and angry at me, stonewalling me and blaming me for ruining our vacation. I remember thinking : what the heck happened here? I wanted to visit a local farmers market – it wasn’t on his list. Control?

        • Luisa, my ideal vacation includes at least one daily episode of sitting somewhere and just observing life happening around me. The farmers market sounds like a perfect place for me!

      • My xFW would buy me a random present for a “surprise” (how sweet!), but then would be furious if I didn’t reciprocate with one IMMEDIATELY. I remember telling him that type of “gift” wasn’t truly a gift, but a barter, and I wasn’t interested in that. I was a poor grad student. He was making 6 figures.

        I realized, later, that he was ALL about manipulation. If I cried because I was upset, he would stare at me with a stony expression and accuse me of trying to manipulate him. When HE cried, however, the world had to come to a stop until I had given him the sympathy he felt he had coming. And he cried a LOT.

    • “he had no friends” I told myself it was because he was from another country, because he worked long hours. But I realize now it was a red flag, as it facilitated his double life.

  • My ex told me during early dating days that he had cheated on high school girlfriends. We were in college so I wrote it off as teenage behavior he’d outgrown . 🤔

    • Mine too. He had cheated on his high school girlfriend. He was able to spin the story in his favor, because when he told her, she slapped him and burned all his gifts and photos. Somehow, the way he told the story made me feel sorry for him and not her.

      What a red flag not to see!

      • My ex FW exactly the same. He said to me that when he got bored of his previous gfs he would start behaving badly so they’d dump him. I was only 17 at the time so thought he wouldn’t get ‘bored’ of me. Fast forward 35 years and Hey Presto!!! That’s exactly what he did.

        Probably the only time he was honest 🤣🤣🤣

    • Mine as well. He cheated on his first serious gf terribly. He was young at the time 16-22, so I foolishly thought that was just “youth”. Now he’s middle aged, and cheating on me. Guess it wasn’t a youth thing. Also, he blames me for the cheating, I didn’t give him enough attention. But if it’s my fault he cheats in middle age, then whose fault was it in his 20s? Classic case of once a cheater, always a cheater. (To be clear, I do think there are probably rare instances where a person cheats once, regrets it immediately and never does it again. But that’s prob very rare and in very specific circumstances) There were many, many other red flags. Including him being incredibly jealous and always suspecting ME of being up to something. I now see that as deflection, he accused me of what HE was doing. That one seems SO obvious now, after DDay but at the time I was just so stumped as to why he was so suspicious of me. I am as loyal as the day is long, and was almost NEVER in a position where I could cheat even if I was a FW that wanted to. He always knew exactly where I was. He also accused me of not being interested sex, which was 100% false but also just confusing. Am I a sex crazed cheater or a prude, it can’t be both. I think he rewrote history in his head, making me a prude so that he could feel better about looking elsewhere.

      • I swear you summed up my ex in what you said too. I found out he had cheated with his first girlfriend he’d moved in with. He made out he was the victim. She apparently just left one day and took all of the furniture. How could she? She took it all as he had cheated.
        He would always accuse me of cheating too. I didn’t really grasp that it was him deflecting at the time. I see it so clearly now.
        I was also accused of cheating and not being interested in sex. Again, which one is it?

  • It was probably my third or fourth date when he was driving and he snapped at me after I AGREED with an observation he made about a family member. I hadn’t met the person, but he was telling a story about this person. I have to say, there was no real charm from mine. He seemed unhappy more than anything. I was distracted by some major life events at the time and just didn’t pay attention. I honestly never expected to date him very long but he just kind of stuck around and attached himself to me. God, I was so stupid. I was older at the time and thought no one else would want me. I craved being in a relationship and I just settled. Untangling my own skein has been heartbreaking. Thanks for helping me see the light, CL!

  • So many really, it’s embarrassing…

    When I was working with him and we were still friends, he hated everyone we worked with and they hated him too. I was warned to stay away from him. But he was so kind to me.
    When we started dating several years later (no longer working together) he still complained about everyone at work. And this began a long history of losing a job every other year —- always because everyone else is a “moron”
    He sometimes didn’t buy me gifts for holidays (birthday, Valentines,…) because he said “You already have great things you buy yourself”
    When we were getting married, I couldn’t get him involved in any of the planning. It was all left to me.
    When his brother had the first grandchild to FW’s parents… the boy was born on FW’s birthday. As soon as FW found out he CRIED because “No one will remember me on my birthday anymore” (He was in his 30s)
    When we got married and had a child, he didn’t want to be in the delivery room. Instead he watched Star Wars on a portable dvd player in the waiting room. After I delivered and the nurse was about to show him his new baby boy… FW’s first words were “I didn’t get to finish my movie”
    For the first year with our new baby, FW came home after 10pm every night… “late from work.” I still don’t know what he was doing while I was stranded with a new baby alone

    Red flags all over. Narcissism everywhere. I just didn’t know what it was. I’m glad he left. I never would have dug myself out otherwise.

    • When I gave birth to our son, ex slept in a recliner while I was in labor. He woke up to tell me he was bored and was going to get something to eat. He left the hospital went out to dinner, then went home and took a shower. He came back with his college T-shirt so he could change into it for photos of him holding our son later. He went back into the recliner and fell asleep. After more than 24 hours of labor it was time for me to push, the nurse woke him up so he could be awake when our son was born. After two long hours of pushing my Dr. gave me a five minute break. Needless to say I was sweaty and exhausted. Ex walks up to me and say,, this is taking a long time, my feet really hurt, I don’t know how much longer I can stay on my feet. I glared at him and he looked surprised then says, but they really hurt.., I should have divorced him then.

      • Brit, we both should have left them when we saw they were so selfish during CHILD BIRTH. But we were too tired and needing help. FWs are useless sacks of shit with zero empathy.

      • Brit, I have been ruminating abut my red flags, but your flag reminded me of two of mine related to childbirth. I was doubled over in labor for son #1, FW made me get out of the car to help him park in front of the maternity hospital. So I am clutching a sign post on the sidewalk while FW parked the car and he swears at me for not being his rear view mirrors. At the time I spackled that he was nervous.

        Then son #3 was born after the worst labor I had ever had, and I am in bed with my brand new little bundle, not even 30 minutes after he was born. FW has the TV on blaring a soccer game. I asked him to turn the TV down and he tells me to shut up. What kind of person does that?

        • My FW is still extremely angry that he had to miss some sporting event because of his youngest child’s birth. She is almost 40 now and he vented about it then said he was “only joking”. This was no joke..he is still angry that he missed some college football game. Glad he’s gone

      • Your comment, “I should have divorced him then” really resonates with me. My FW’s mother was stressed when I was in labor, and he got mad at me because I was in pain and wasn’t being… I don’t know, pleasant? understanding? So he decided to show me who was boss, and he went out and sat in the waiting room with his mother, to support her, because I wasn’t being understanding of her. My OB went out and yelled at him in front of God and everybody. She told him “Your WIFE is the one having the baby. Your MOM has her HUSBAND here to support her. Get back in there, NOW.” I will love her forever for that. But, I should have divorced him then.

        • Oh Wow…I LOVE your OB. Good for her standing up for you and being THAT pissed. Awesome.

        • People calling others out is what is missing in the world today. I’m glad she did that for you, because it affirms it wasn’t you.

      • When I was in labor with my first son, the hospital did not do epidurals unless there were complications. I was young and healthy, so i didn’t mind. However, I still experienced labor pains. Going into transition labor was so painful, that, as you can imagine, i was frightened and started moaning rather loudly. The nurse gave me a little demerol but not much since she didn’t want to risk the baby. She stepped out of the room for about 5 minutes. The fuckwit took advantage of her absence, leaned over me with his face less than 2 inches from my own, and said menacingly, “Stop it! Stop it right now or I’m leaving!” I was scared to death! I could only cry and begged him as silently as i could, “Please don’t leave! Please don’t leave me!” I often think ‘fuckwit’ is too mild of a description for him.

      • Oh Brit, this reminds me. Gave birth to our first baby by C-section. AP had been hanging around like a bad smell during pregnancy, but was ‘just a friend’, who ‘needed support, she has noone else’. We were transferring from the hospital to the maternity care place for a couple of days of aftercare, and walking a long way from the maternity ward to the carpark. I was moving slowly and carefully, FW was carrying baby in the baby pod, and held the door open. He’d broken his arm doing one of his high-risk sports that he insisted living his second childhood through about 3 years before. He turned around and in his nastiest voice, hissed at me, “Hurry up, my arm is hurting.” I was so shocked, all I could squeak out was, “I’ve just had a caesarian”, pull my sunglasses down and sob my way through the rest of the hospital. He had the gall to ask me what was the matter. The affair hadn’t started yet, but the discard definitely had. Four months later I found out what was going on.

    • Asshat was so selfish during my children’s childbirths and even missed my son’s birth (thank God!). But the worst was when we agreed on a middle name for our son and unbeknownst to me, changed the name to something else when he registered the birth at the hospital. I think I found out when I received his paperwork from the embassy (he was military and we lived in Germany). He didn’t even have the courage to tell me.

      FWs are cowards and so selfish. It’s all about them.

    • OMG the birthdays. The one day where the whole world is expected to stop and pay homage to the glorious gift from god that is the FW. I don’t miss that at all.

    • “He sometimes didn’t buy me gifts for holidays (birthday, Valentines,…) because he said ‘You already have great things you buy yourself’”

      Hugs, @MichelleShocked! Women are taught to ignore red flags. Society gaslights and shames women who would see dumpable red flag offenses in the male behaviors you’ve mentioned, of not getting you a birthday or Valentine’s Day gift. Some have called women “gold diggers” for expecting a card! Misogyny is crazy out here. Glad you have left a cheater!

  • I was so naïve when it came to relationships. I was too busy getting my PhD, working on my career, traveling through Europe most summers that when I finally got to the point of wanting to start dating for the purpose of getting married I was light on the relationship experience. I met and married a Narcissistic Sociopath but had NO idea! I am an empath and forgave things as, no one is perfect. Until I left him and did a google search I was clueless. All the pieces came together like a flick of a switch. He is still abusing me through the courts – over 10 year later! This is what happens when kids are involved. As a HS Health teacher I have made it my mission to educate my students about unhealthy relationships so they know from the beginning what to look for. I use OneLove – an organization set up after Yeardley Love was murdered by an ex-boyfriend who exhibited many signs of an unhealthy relationship, to teach my students. It is amazing how many share that their moms or themselves or a friend are in these situations. I teach at a Title 1 school (for those not in the US this is a designation where a certain percentage of students are below poverty line – all of mine are) with almost 100% students of color but most are Latinx families with many immigrants. I could not save myself from this but I sure as hell am going to try to save my students. They already have the cards stacked against them.

    • Wow. You are a hero to those kids. Thank you so much for making this world a better place!

      • Lizza Lee and One Potato – Thanks, I appreciate that! I try so hard to teach them that it is not OK and to have boundaries and stick to them – too many have so much trauma in their lives already. I am proud to say that I have had students tell me they broke up with their BF/GF after they learned that what was happening to them was not normal or have had kids to get their moms to break up with the nasty BF

    • Wow, I wish I had you for a teacher in school. It would have really opened my eyes. Your students are so fortunate to take your class. And, as Lizzy Lee says, you are a hero!

    • RaffNoMore, thank you for doing this important work, and doing it in a marginalized/underserved community.
      As an immigrant myself – but one who enjoys white privilege – immigration/integration issues have my attention always.

    • Glad to hear you are teaching this to young people. I am Latinx and a phd and I also married a Narc. However he is STBX.

    • I tell my students (I teach at college level, in Psych); I can’t do much to avoid your getting INTO bad relationships (because so many people are great in the beginning!), but I sure can help you recognize them and GET OUT a lot sooner!

  • The earliest red flag is probably his early little criticisms of my driving, little mean jokes about my friends and family….which blossomed into overt verbal abuse fairly early on. Huge red flag.

    • Oh, mine did mean jokes too. I remember that now. I have that kind of sense of humor though so it didn’t seem like a big deal but he would take it too far and even after I told him he went too far, it would take him too long to stop. I had forgotten about that.

    • FW used to say “it’s okay to be wrong”. I thought he was joking. But no, he really thought that every opinion or taste that wasn’t his was actually wrong.

      It didn’t sink in til I heard him say it to OW one day (don’t ask, our kids played together). She started defending the thing it was she liked and I thought “she has no idea she’s being abused”. Of course I didn’t say anything because she would never have believed me.

  • She laughed about stealing things from hotels. I let it slide since she didn’t do it in front of me. I should have taken it as the tip of the much, much bigger iceberg of problems that it was.

  • When I wore a knock-out dress & instead of being wowed he made it clear that he wasn’t impressed. This was at the beginning of dating & I was confused at his reaction. Instead of chalking him up to be a jerk, I instead “tried harder” to impress him. If I had a time machine & could go back, he would see the back of that dress walking out.

  • He was condescending to female waitstaff, never to males. He’d make fun of them and loved to put them on the spot and embarrass them in front of everyone for a laugh. Especially when dining out with a large group. He’d draw everyone’s attention and put on a little show. I’d repeatedly asked him to stop, and he said they didn’t mind.

  • FW was too attached to his parents. We couldn’t live far from them and he always wanted to be with them. He only had 2 friends despite living in the same area his whole life. When his best friend got married, he told me that he loved me ALMOST as much as he loved his parents. This was after we’d been married 10 years. The day his last parent died he walked away from us. I now think he only married and had kids because he wanted to make his parents happy.

    • This was my missed red flag too! Only it wasn’t his parents, it was his mom. And same – I think he had kids because he knew his mom wanted grandchildren and then when he saw how much work it was (and took my time and attention away from him) he was out. We lived in their backyard.

    • STBX was also very submissive to his parents. I feel that he had kids to please them. Not because he wanted to be a dad. He has invested very little in his children.

  • Mine was pretty good with his mask. Which is why nobody believed anything I said. He’s even been caught in a child molester sting and they’re probably still going to come up with reasons why it wasn’t his fault. It’s disgusting.

    But my big red flag is lying for no reason. Normal people will lie. In the early days of this relationship I lied to my boyfriend about having a cigarette and he wanted to know why I lied and it was because I was ashamed and embarrassed about smoking when I had a bad day. I told him I’m ashamed of my habit and that’s the truth. It’s not a good thing but there’s an actual reason there. (I haven’t had one in over a year now though. Yay!) A wife might lie about the cost of a dress so her husband doesn’t get upset. That doesn’t make it a good thing to do but it’s also not sociopathic. Normal people lie but they lie for reasons. Even normal bad people will lie for reasons. They’ll do it because they get something out of it.

    People like my ex lie for no reason at all. They lie when there’s nothing wrong with the truth. They lie even when the truth would serve them better. These are little lies too. Like lying about hating a certain type of coffee. Saying you went to a different restaurant than you did for lunch. Saying something was blue when it was yellow. Stuff that matters so little it’s hard for me to remember specific circumstances but I remember the fights about those circumstances. With me asking, “wait a minute… why would you lie about that?”

    There’s a lot of speculation as to why disordered people like that lie. It’s to prop up their mask, it’s gaslighting, etc. After living with it for so long, I think it’s just compulsive. I don’t think they even think about it, it just rolls out their mouths. If they tried to stop, I think it would be a huge struggle and they wouldn’t be able to refrain from lying for very long because they’d stop monitoring themselves for a minute and the lies would roll out again.

    For whatever reason they do it, it’s their tell. It’s a big one, even though the lies will seem like nothing. I’ve had a few younger women ask me if there were any signs because of course, they don’t want to get mixed up with someone like this. That’s what I tell them. And oh, your girlfriends will say, you’re dumping him because he lied about THAT? Does it even matter? Because I heard that kind of thing every time it bothered me and I wondered why he was doing it.

    It matters because it doesn’t matter. Lies that don’t matter come from the most dangerous people. That’s the best I got. The really bad stuff all started way, way later into the marriage. Those were the flags.

    • KP, I was married to a constant liar too. About little things and, when challenged, he would smirk. I didint really understand why he did that.

      • Me too!! Lied about the small stuff. Flowered up stories to others. Even take my life stories and make them his own! I’d be like…. Hey that happened to me not you and he’d just look at me vaguely and blink.

        Don’t miss that at all.

        • I think it’s partly to get attention – they need good stories to tell the crowd of admirers they seek out, so they fluff their own and steal other people’s. When we were in marriage counseling it was a huge grievance of his, that I busted him on stuff like that in front of other people. Of course, the fact that I had a beef with dishonesty didn’t matter at all. I stopped busting him years before we separated, because it made him so mad, but I always thought it was wrong.

        • Right? And then YOU look like the crazy one fir questioning them. It’s maddening. I think gaslighters get off on telling lies in front of others so the others can be unaware accomplices to the gaslighting.

      • The lie just for the kick of it, is such a big red flag. I don’t know why I didn’t recognize that earlier.

        It wasn’t FOO on my part, my family, including me just didn’t lie. It was not a part of our make up. So it wasn’t that I was used to being bull shitted.

        • We project our good qualities like truthfulness on to them.
          I get it. Growing up, people in my family and community were generally honest. So I thought I was misunderstanding him, because why would he lie?

    • This was my biggest red flag too. He lied all the time. I thought that he wouldn’t lie about the big stuff to me! Now I know better…

    • My sociopath ex bf, the Lying Cheating Loser, also lied about “insignificant things” (his words). They do it for the little thrill of power they get every time they get away with a lie.
      I’ve seen it referred to on this blog as Duper’s Delight.

      • Yes, I first heard of duper’s delight with the watts family murders. A body language expert showed that scumbag in an interview and he smiled at one point for just a a few seconds and looked so smug. It was while he was on TV asking for help finding the family he murdered!

        It’s so lame. I really think my ex would do stuff like lie and say he bought a blue shirt at the store and if I said “oh, that’s nice.” He’d be sitting there thrilled thinking “how is she so stupid?! How does she not know I bought a red shirt?! I tricked her because I’m so smart and she’s so stupid!” And he’d get off on that, as if I’d have a way to know or even care what color shirt he bought when I wasn’t with him.

        I can’t think of the word for it but young children don’t understand that if someone wasn’t there to see or hear something, they don’t know it happened. So if someone left their coat on a chair and then left the room and the child saw someone else put the coat into a closet, the child might think the original person was stupid when they came back and didn’t know their coat was more in the closet. As children develop, they realize the original person would have no way to know it was put in the closet.

        I don’t think my ex ever developed this ability. To him if you don’t know everything he knows, you are stupid. So I guess maybe that’s the payoff.

        • KP theory of mind? Autistics often have impaired TOM but psychopaths and narcs generally dont. He probably has high cognitive empathy, but believes that is a sign of his superiority, rather than something everyone usually has. Tbh these freaks get away with so much, hiding in plain sight, in many ways they are not wrong about how easy it is to trick the rest of us mere mortals. Of course when the game is up it sucks to be them (although he is probably lying to prison staff as we speak, sticking an extra cookie down his pants or something)

    • YES! The lying about everything! He called it “trolling”. He’d just spin bs stories that didn’t even benefit him in any way, just because he got jollies from keeping people off-kilter.

      • FW delighted in making fake profiles (sometimes very elaborate) just so he could go on message boards and stir up drama and start fights. At one point he had one of his “characters” commit suicide and traumatized a bunch of people who had been interacting with someone they thought was real. FW thought this was hilarious.

        • ISTL, I’m an old veteran of the internet wars, having worked for a well known site that included many discussion forums and having run my own discussion groups for many years. I can tell you that I have encountered many of those kind of extreme trolls, including the faked death stuff, which is surprisingly common. So is pretending to be a different gender, age group, nationality, etcetera. One memorable character was a Floridian guy in his 30s (we found out his real identity) who pretended to be 1) a lesbian acting as a surrogate for a gay couple 2) and 3) he also played the gay couple 4) a straight female prostitute, and 5) an elderly male psychologist in Sweden. Pretending to have a PHD in psychology is super common with trolls. They use it to try to give weight to their pronouncements about others.
          These freaks invent detailed backstories for themselves, just for the thrill of fooling people, but they trip themselves up more often than not, being unable to remember all the lies they’ve told. I’d like to think they’re just frustrated actors, but they are nothing that benign.
          I’ve had to ban them, and for doing so I was subjected to death threats, rape threats, threats to my family and other forms of cyberstalking. Some of them were after me for years. I’ve known plenty of people who were targeted IRL by trolls they ran afoul of, too. So I am confident in saying your ex is one sick monkey.

          All this is by way of saying that knowing these people are out there is a warning to keep your personal info private online. I have never used my real name or any other info such as hometown, job, etc., so none of the trolls were ever able to do more than send me creepy dms and emails. All my emails are anonymous and were signed up for with bogus info, too. The same is true of anything I join, and I don’t join much. I’m not even a member here. Ed Snowden is right in the warnings he has given people about being secure online. I’m a bit of a broken record in this issue, because it bothers me that so many people put their lives out there for all to see on social media.

    • About their odd lying… I heard something interesting from Dr Todd Grande’s Youtube channel. Dr Grande said that part of why narc lie so much is because the truth offends them. Therefore they’re almighty entitled to overwrite it.

    • KatiePig this resonated with me because the only time I’ve had problems with my boyfriend was when I lied to him about me still smoking. I was ashamed and embarrassed as well. It’s not a reason to lie so then I was ashamed and embarrassed about lying in addition to the smoking. My FW ex though. Lied about anything and everything. Many times when there was no point to lying he still lied. Good job on being smoke free. I quit in December. So far, so good.

      • Congratulations on quitting! I know it’s hard but it does get easier.

      • Narcs dont experience cognitive dissonance as being a baddie is egosyntonic. Imagine not feeling shame. Just nothing. It is only consequences that moderate bad behaviour, not feelings, Scary for the rest of us.

    • This is a very powerful tell, Katie, thanks. I think it’s that duper’s delight in small, constant hits every day, which later on crystalizes into bigger dishonesty. They enjoy seeing how much decent people will believe their untruths, or rather, how believable they can be (they think they’re clever/cleverer than all the gullible people around them) but then, just like a substance, they need to get away with larger amounts of it to get the same hit after a while. And because they start small and get away with it for so long, it might explain why a lot of dishonest people are so genuinely dumbfounded that they get caught out, or why they become so blatant and incautious. They’ve got away with the constant dishonesty for so long that they live in their own magical world of cleverness, where nothing has ever brought them up short so they believe they can continue their run indefinitely. Small distortions of reality, and thinking, when unchecked, become major. It’s the boiled frog scenario but within it’s own closed feedback loop. With a lot of entitlement. I’ve gotten away with it, because I deserve to, because I’m special and clever, and I’ll always be special and clever, so I’ll always get away with it. And they lie to themselves so much that they believe the lies after a while as well.

    • Man, this comment takes me back. I briefly dated a sociopath and the big tell for me was he lied about dumb shit like not liking ice cream. Then weeks later, he liked ice cream. Then he stood me up one night so I dumped him.

      Of course, he was outraged. I didn’t tell him I dumped him for a lot of reasons, like lying about the ice cream.

    • It matters because it doesn’t matter. Lies that don’t matter come from the most dangerous people. That’s the best I got. The really bad stuff all started way, way later into the marriage. Those were the flags.

      Simple. And true.

  • He was sooo incredibly charming… he could tell me the sky was painted by sacrificed volcano virgins and I would have thought him the most wonderful person ever.

    He drank to excess – daily. When he got verbally violent one night and I tried to break up the next day, he made promises that were satisfactory. But he didn’t keep them. He actually blamed me for my reaction. Said I was unfaithful to our relationship by wanting to break up.

    No friends that I met before marriage – he said they were sooooo busy in high social life but we’d be included in all the best circles once married. His family was either 100% in his corner or situationally nice to him.

    He didn’t want to include my friends in anything. Eventually I lost almost all of them.

    He was a either a flirt or a snob to wait staff. He was a prick to valet.

    I had to let him know whenever I was driving anywhere, when I arrived – so he could pray for my safety.

    Not answering a text – EVEN WHILE DRIVING – within a minute was cause for escalating “why aren’t you answering me” texts and then an all night circular argument.

    Refusal to keep up with him on his drinking was suspect (a lot of booze went into plants or down the drain).

    I believed all the sob stories, the glory stories, the “once we…” stories and ignore the giant red flag waving me off.

    • Wow, I’m so glad you’re out T&A, that’s a major coercive control scenario you were caught up in, the having to immediately account for your whereabouts.

    • I think we may have been married to the same person. (Minus the praying – I had to text so he knew I was safe.)

      • My ex was (or pretended to be) overly concerned about my safety, and in an increasingly controlling way as time went on. At first, it was endearing that he cared and wanted to protect me; over time, it came to feel restrictive and patronizing. I feel like this one might fit with HOAC’s “beware a man who cries a lot and shows distaste for women with makeup.”

        • Of course, the irony is that he hurt me more in every way — emotionally/psychologically, physically, financially — than anyone else ever has. And he did it intentionally.

  • Oh my god. There were so many, I am actually embarassed. In the beginning it started with him trying to “dump me” over something small, like he did something wrong, like made me wait somewhere for 1 or 2 hours (without picking up his phone or letting me know) and I was upset and told him about it and he kind of managed to turn it around to: I don’t need a girlfriend who can’t understand me and doesn’t support me and my work, blah blah. Of course I was always in shock and begged him not to end the relationship over something like that. So he always got what he wanted.
    One huge red flag, which I actually also recognized at the time, but decided to look past it..was when I got pregnant, we were only together for a year maybe, looking for an apartment together, etc. So it was not planned and we weren’t really ready to start a family, I was kind of shocked and scared when I found out.. So first I told him and he was kind of happy, but we were both unsure of what to do exactly. So the next day I went to my mom to tell her as well and maybe get some advice/comfort from her, being an older and wiser woman and all.. When I told him that I told her, he flipped. Like why would I go to her and it’s not her decision to make, why am I such a mommy’s girl and why didn’t I wait until we decided on our own, blah blah, like it’s none of her business and what’s wrong with me etc. He gave me such a hard time about it for the whole weekend that followed, I was completely worn out. He even called me a bitch. I was so sad, scared and lost, pregnant with this man’s baby. The following week I had my first doctors appointment and the heartbeat was not there. I was sad but also kind of relieved. I don’t know why I didn’t leave after that. It was the biggest red flag ever. But he was so sweet and understanding after I miscarried and I just spackled. Until we got married and had a child a few years later. To find out he was cheating on me our whole relationship. I see so many red flags looking back. None of them were really related to infidelity, so I truly didn’t know that.. but he was such a piece of shit in so many ways he treated me, I should have known cheating was also in the picture.

    • Oh, and also one of the very obvious red flags that were also there basically from the beginning. He always had something bad to say about women.. like maybe my friends or his coworkers, acquaintances, whoever.. they were always whores or bitches or something, he always judged everyone (not just women) and found something wrong with them with no real basis or evidence.. Such a classic narcissist, but I had no idea about narcissism at that time. I think now I would recognize these red flags from a mile away.

  • For the whole of the 26 years. Him going out, him getting drunk, him not coming home when he said he would but always in the early hours of the morning, him being either good fun or obnoxious when drunk but me never knowing which I was going to get, all wine consumed as quickly as possible, the constant requests to friends etc for ‘one for the road’, his family constantly being drunk when at any event and the mother always managing to spill a whole glass of red wine on the sitting room carpet in every house or flat we lived in together, his brother urinating on our carpet at 3am when drunk and trying to throw himself off a third floor balcony at the hotel where we were married, drunken nights with his niece where they ‘got to know each other’. The arguments about the drinking and the accusations that I am ‘puritanical’. The shouting and the arm grabbing, hard enough to cause bruises, during rows when he was drunk, which he always started. The sort of apology the next morning. The holidays where he started drinking at lunchtime and did not stop all day. The Christmas days where he was asleep by 3pm, snoring on the sofa. My life with the ex and drink was so miserable. And I knew he was like this before I started a relationship with him, when he was with exgfOW, but I thought he would mature! He got worse because I tolerated his behaviour and I had no boundaries firmly expressed. My brother was and is an alcoholic but I knew that the ex’s behaviour was abnormal. ExgfOW is so welcome to all of that, and she too knew what she was getting. A red flag to me with anyone is an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. I will never overlook it again.

    • Oh my god, this!!! Towards the end he would call me to say he was going out for “a beer” pretty much every night and then rock in around 2 a.m. stinking drunk (having driven home across the Swiss/French border) and either be looking for sex or a fight!

  • I started dating my ex at 16. And married at 18. I did not notice many redflags being so young. However, when we first started dating he took me to a friends party. We were there about an hour when he said he had to go home. He dropped me off. After we were married he admitted that there was a girl there that wanted to have sex with him. Since We were not having sex he thought why not. We were supposed to go to my prom. I purchased the tickets and bought a dress. He rented a tux. On our way there he somehow go lost. I never made it to the prom. A few years into our marriage I asked him if he got lost on purpose. He said yes, he did not want to go to the prom and did not want me to go with my best friends brother. Through out our entire marriage he was verbally abusive and critical of me. I could go on an on. If I could turn back time. I would tell my 16 year old self to turn and run. It would have saved me from decades of verbal and Financial abuse. Only to be cheated on with my oh so willing and desperate troll of a cousin.

  • So many red flags waving vigorously in my face and I didn’t even see them. I was young, in love, and he was my first “everything.”

    The biggest one that I outright ignored in the early days came right after we were married. I remember it clearly. We were watching Entertainment Tonight and Halle Berry’s first husband had been caught cheating on her. I remember gasping, “She’s so gorgeous though! How?” My new husband nodded and commented, “It doesn’t matter what someone looks like. If he was cheating, it means he wasn’t getting something that he needed in the relationship.”

    Freshly married to the love of my life who, I knew, would never cheat on me because we were soulmates, I nodded in agreement at his wisdom, ignoring the flag right in front of my face.

    Additionally, as I commented above, he had a high school girlfriend that he cheated on. Why I couldn’t move these puzzle pieces together, I’ll never know. Sometimes love blinds you and sometimes love makes you completely irrational to the point where you’re actually thinking “Okay, this man cheated on his past GF and thinks it’s acceptable for this celebrity to cheat on another one because ‘he didn’t get what he needed at home’ reasons, but–no worries. He would never do that to me. He values me too highly and loves me too much. That’ll never happen to me.”

    I feel like a loon just typing that. Of course it happened to me.

    • I feel like our stories are so similar. I too felt like he valued me highly and would never blow up our family for a sex worker (who he admired because she made as much per hour as he did–physician vs sex worker). I prided myself on looking like a put together lady–she prided herself on looking like a junkie. “She’s young, exciting, beautiful;” I guess everything I was not. Red flags from the start but I was too stupid or naive to see them.

      • I too was young and naïve when I began a relationship with FW. If only I had listened to my gut feelings, and paid attention to the red flags, my entire situation could have been avoided. He should have been that ex-boyfriend that I would vaguely remember decades later thinking ‘Whew. I dodged a bullet.’ I wish 50 year old me could hug 20 year old me and tell her to run. Run far away!

        • Yes the wasted years are hard to swallow.

          On my wedding day my dad said to me ‘if you don’t want to do this you don’t have to. If you have any doubts you can say no’.

          I would say to my young naive self…. RUN FOR THE HILLS.

          • Claire, You were so lucky to have someone care enough to warn you, and risk their relationship with you in case you took offense.

            My brother’s wife warned me about FW a few weeks before I married him. She wouldn’t tell me what she thought was wrong with him. Since D Day I’ve wanted to contact her. We’ve been married 37 years. Maybe they had a “thing” together. Who knows?

            • Certainly sounds as if she were alluding to some sort of inappropriate behavior.

              Why have you never asked her about why she warned you?

              • Eirene, I did ask her before I married him. She laughed and wouldn’t say. I had lived with FW for two years by then and had ignored many red flags. One red flag was how flirtatious he was. I pushed her comment out of my mind and married him. When D Day happened 18 months ago, I thought of her and wondered if they had a hooked up before we married. She was and is very strange and sexually inappropriate. My brother died five years ago and I haven’t spoken to her since then. D Day revealed FW’s decades-long hooker habit.

              • Wow, Erin. I hope the last 18 months have eased some of the pain of associating with those lying cheaters. I’m still realizing things that I missed at the time. Glad she’s out of your life now!

    • You were young and naive. But you’re not naive now. You’re free

  • My dad is a hardcore narc and a serial cheater (mom divorced him almost 20 years ago.) They dated in high school, but broke up because my dad wanted to date other girls (fine).
    It was prom season, and mom got invited to the prom by her best friends brother. When my dad found out, he showed up at her house (they had already left), then drove to the prom venue and disconnected part of the guys engine so his dad has to come and pick them up. They went bowling afterward, where my dad showed up and punched her date in the face.
    My mom had HUGE red flags like this, and she still married him. He cheated on her during their engagement, when she was pregnant with me, and all through their marriage. When she filed for divorce (at my urging) he became furious that his cake was being taken away. Mom mistook his jealousy as love. Now she knows it’s about power.

  • I have a college degree from a great university and I met my future husband at work which was for a television network. I assumed he had a degree since he was also working there. After weeks of blissful dating I asked about his schooling and he said he went to Duke but didn’t finish. More months go by only to discover that he did “go to Duke” but only for some random week long class offered to the general public. It was a major lie and red flag, but at this point I was hooked. Wish I would have combined this big and the other little red flags together and left him before I spent so many years being fooled.

  • I believe in tolerance and compromise. I do not know how any long-term relationship between any two parties or groups with differing opinions can exist without these two tools for peace. I do not believe in accepting abuse. Learning to know what is acceptable is the base line for learning to spot red flags.

    I did not know about cluster B dysfunctional personality traits when I grew up either. I did know something was off / different about my FOO. I was basically trained not only to accept the unacceptable, but to clean it up and act like it didn’t exist. It was the doctrine of “Don’t Wash Your Dirty Laundry in Public.” It did not matter that I was enduring emotional abuse, or irrational behavior from my parents. I was not supposed to report it to any official outside the family. I was not supposed to seek personal therapy or help. That did not reflect well on the family. Is it any surprise that this set me up for accepting the unacceptable from a spouse? Here’s a news flash: keeping secrets can kill you!

    However, there comes a time when you have declared independence from your parents and extended family. They are still important to you, but they no longer can control you. You set up a Declaration of Independence from arbitrary totalitarian rule. You can support yourself and make your own choices. That’s when you learn to set your boundaries.

    For me, this was an extended period of learning and change outside of college. I did seek therapy — no one could stop me. I did seek legal counsel — no one could stop me. I did find supportive friends and I became stronger. With all that research and study, and support, I became strong enough to set boundaries. I did all this while married to a lying, cheating abuser. It took a long time. I went through two divorces. I now live alone, by choice. My boundaries protect me from making the same mistakes with new men that I made with previous men. I have not met a man I feel like letting through the gate of my boundaries, and I may never. That is ok with me, peace is better than abuse any day for me.

    Remember, this is an ongoing process. You have to be vigilant. You may well lose other family members. I lost a sister last year. She has a depression diagnosis, is an alcoholic, and I believe is in the cluster B spectrum. I had spackled for her for years. Last year, she had an episode that crossed the line, and I established a painful boundary. I have been accused of being petty and unforgiving. I have been told (by her) she did nothing wrong. She has demanded a detailed accounting of her wrongdoing. I just do not respond anymore. It is a form of low contact. It is not about tolerance and compromise anymore. It is about the fact I will not be disrespected and abused anymore. I still love my sister, and I grieve her loss. But she is the only one who can save herself. Or not. In many ways, the emotional price of setting the boundary with her was more painful than with my Ex’s. They were not my family, I had not held them in my arms as a baby or watched them grow up. But boundaries are essential to your sanity.

    Good luck on your journey to Meh.

    • portia, what you have written is all quite similar to my journey through life: two marriages to lying, cheating losers, alcoholism rampant in my family, ties with the drunkard sister who frequently calls me (always with ice cubes rattling in her glass) slowly being cut. My rule is that, in order for me to continue a phone conversation, she now must balance her whining, complaining litany of woes with something nice or good that she observed that day. I almost hope I don’t have to actually cut the cord with her, since she’s the final drunken complainer in my highly dysfunctional family that I still have any interaction with.

      I too am much more comfortable in my own company than trying to navigate the complexities of dating. Several years ago local man had been flirted with me for quite some time, so after quite some time, we went out on two casual daytime dates, followed by a public dinner out where all our neighbors were present.

      My therapist’s words were topmost in my mind: “Pay attention to how your body is reacting, Eirene.” Well, I was a tense, anxious mess, and we mutually finally called it off in a manner in which we could both save face in our small community.

      As far as today’s question about what I wish I had paid more attention to, the foremost is when one of his colleagues tried to warn me, and I confidently spackled for him.

      My takeaway from 64 years of experience: Every day is a new opportunity to do good, to help someone, and to just enjoy the mundane things in life.

      • Okay, all those weird typos and repeated phrases DO somehow magically appear after people submit their comments. At least, that’s what just happened to my carefully proofread submission above.

      • Yes, growing up in dysfunction with your FOO makes you blind to red flags. Only when you learn what is normal and acceptable for yourself can you start identifying the “flags” that are warnings. I think that is why a liar is the most contemptable FW of all for me. They lie to cover up their freak factor and are happy to mislead you and cheat and steal. They purposely mirror you to blind you to their faults. The love bombing was the most attention I had ever received, because my family was not affectionate. I was virtually blind going into a relationship — all I looked for was someone who had skills and was willing to work. I was even fooled about that. It is sad how ill prepared I was for marriage. It is sad how much crap I put up with from my family. But, happily, it is also in my past.

  • I’ve had this conversation so many times with my therapist. Love bombing was a red flag – expensive gifts, love letters, flowers etc. But at 18? I thought I was finally getting my own romance movie. Enmeshment with his mom. An inability to self soothe – the bottom would fall out and I was always there to support him. I remember him calling me at work once, bawling, because his old cat died when we had just started seeing each other. It was weird. And yet, I got married and had two kids with him! Lesson learned.

    • Yes, I had just started dating him and stayed home from work with a bad cold. He brought me a dozen roses. For a cold! I was older, but I was smitten from then on.

      Later, during separation, he proudly told me how he had taken roses to his favorite restaurants for all the waitresses on Valentine’s Day. Nothing for the wife he was supposedly trying to patch things up with. All I could think about was the stupid roses he brought for my cold years before. To him, roses were bribes.

  • I actually feel like a complete idiot because, two months before our marriage, he came to me and confessed he had “almost” cheated. Yes, that’s right, I ignored the blazing red flag of him confessing to a desire to cheat.

    He was a dance major and wanted to go out to a club with a male friend. I don’t dance well so I said, have at it, I trust you.

    The next day he confessed that an attractive woman had hit on him at the club and he had been “tempted” to say yes. “But nothing happened, right?” I asked nervously. “No, of course not!” he said.

    I know now I should have run shrieking in the other direction, that a man who admits he was “tempted” to cheat before he’s even married will DEFINITELY cheat sooner or later. I know now from his pattern of lies that he probably did not, in fact, say “no” that night. I know now he probably only told me because he was seeing what he could get away with, or because he was hoping I would pull the trigger and break us up so he wouldn’t have to without having his reputation sullied by actual cheating.

    But I was 21, had very little relationship experience, had just leased an apartment with him and didn’t want to go through the embarrassment of canceling the wedding. So I put it down as no harm, no foul.

    I hereby claim the chump crown and apologize to Maya Angelou. He told me EXACTLY who he was before we even got married; I just didn’t believe him.

    • I think when we are young a lot gets past us. It is a hopeful, romantic time in most of our lives.

      It would be great if we could require a certain level of maturity, but of course we do want our freedom, and that is as it should be.

      If I had just waited a year to marry as my dad begged me to, my fw likely would have married some unfortunate woman in Vietnam, and I would have been spared. But no, I had to get married before he left for VN. Mostly because fw was pushing it, not me.

      I don’t like that I got conned, but I am glad for the one that escaped it, whoever she would have been.

  • So many red flags 🚩
    -His former GF was “psycho” and she wanted to be tied up and abused during sex and he said he couldn’t handle her (turns out that’s all he ever wanted)
    -He was a night time janitor while at university. He talked about how smart he was because he busted through his work in an hour doing a half assed job and got paid for 3 more hours while he sat and played games with his friend (I chalked this up to immaturity and the fact that it was a shitty job)
    -After one year of being married he didn’t come home often enough to care for me when I had a serious influenza. I nearly died (at age 27) and ended up in hospital. The nurses thought I lived alone and were shocked to find out I was married! That’s how little he cared- he was out with friends or something. I actually left him after that and moved home with my parents. We reconciled unfortunately.
    -When we visited his family he would hide in the basement and play video games. I got left alone straining to make conversation with his mom and stepdad.
    -I had to come home to him playing video games every night. His back was turned and he never even looked at me. I was bored and lonely as a very young newlywed

    • I too was bored and lonely as a very young newly wed. It wasn’t games though it was many hobbies that took him out of the home. I spent 3 weeks before our wedding getting the home ready for our married life (didn’t live together in my day) he didn’t join me once…. Huge HUGE

    • Wow! This just triggered a long-buried memory. My ex was a grad student at the university I attended as an undergrad. He had a night watchman job and got fired (I think by some senior faculty member in his department) for not being there when he should have been. I didn’t like that he’d been irresponsible, but I guess I didn’t see it as a red flag because I thought it was an aberration. Of course, I was young at the time, I was in love, and I was very insecure (introvert with a highly critical mom). Like someone else said, I wish I could go back in time and counsel 20-year-old me about this and other red flags.

  • A busy and compartmentalized life: not wanting me to meet his other friends (with eventually one or two exceptions, which felt like I was auditioning for their approval). Standing me up repeatedly because “a friend was going through some things and needed his help.”

    This was a long-term non-marital relationship. Letting me know I was not good enough to marry, and he was still looking.

    No doubt this sounds terrible that I’d stick around. My self-esteem was in the toilet.

  • My mother was a Cluster B, and so was my ex, both formally diagnosed. So it all felt familiar to me.

    A mutual friend of ours had known my ex since childhood, and he warned me off when we got engaged. He prophetically said that my now-ex was highly rigid and controlling and that if we ever had problems, it would come from him not me. But I was over-awed by husband-to-be and his family. I should have dug deeper, much deeper.

    There were other red flags, but the biggest was that my ex wanted to cancel the wedding the morning of the event. I came to the church in my dress to have early pictures taken with him in a garden (not traditional), and he wanted to call it off because I had broken away from him to talk to relatives of mine that I hadn’t seen in years at the rehearsal dinner. I was gone maybe ten minutes that evening. But no, I begged and pleaded to go through with it.

    All that and more. Ultimately, he decided I was a vastly inferior being and took off to a “better” life at the beach after retiring when I said we needed to separate. Life with him had become a nightmare, and I couldn’t take it anymore. We were separated long-distance for a year before I decided the reconciliation was a no-go. I believed against the odds that he’d somehow come around. Nope. It was all my fault; he was having a ball living the single life.

    My older attorney commented multiple times about my STBX’s over-the-top contempt, which made it hard to negotiate a reasonable settlement. But we got it because his attorney went turncoat after deciding that my ex was the “worst client ever.” My ex tried the power and control on his high-level attorney, and that blew up. I was happy with the terms in the end, and we got the closeout done even though my ex tried to cause problems with that too.

  • So much spackle! Much of it was him positioning himself as the perpetual victim.

    Tiny things like having a go at me for holding my knife “wrong” and “dangerously close to him” while eating dinner (it was a butter knife).

    Or asking me to pick a restaurant and criticizing every suggestion I made while refusing to suggest any. The best was when I suggested Italian when he was trying to lose weight and he accused me of trying to kill him.

    Bigger things like him questioning my female friend’s knowledge of how satellites work with cars. She’s a satellite engineer who works at one of the big car companies and holds multiple patents. He read an article. When I took him to ask over it, he sent me a long, self-flagellating email about how horrible he was and how he’d be so much better.

    His ex was “crazy”
    His bosses were “incompetent”
    I was “emotionally abusive” and “couldn’t let things go” when I complained about his refusal to come to the hospital with me as I miscarried our child.

    That one will never cease to amaze me. I was in the hospital alone, losing so much blood that I left a pool of it on the floor, in so much pain that they ended up putting me on morphine. And he was the victim because a few months later he caught me on a miscarriage support site and that was abusive. I was so far gone at that point that I believed him.

    Poor, poor, poor guy.

  • The red flag that I ignored wasn’t waved by Ex-Mrs LFTT, but by others about her previous relationship history. I interpreted it at the time as them trying to “sl*t-shame” her, so out of loyalty to her I ignored it. It turns out that what they were trying to tell me was that she was just out of a relationship with a married work colleague and that the affair had only ended after they were warned to “stop or else” by their respective managers.

    Funny old thing, she never mentioned this man throughout our marriage and her AP some 25 years later was (you guessed it) the same man – now single – returning the favour.


  • In the very beginning of our marriage (we married at 18, almost 19), so lets just say 19.

    He was in Vietnam the first years so while I gestated he was writing me great love letters. It was in retrospect the last real romance I would ever know.

    Oh there was great sex and some good times, but he was never romantic.

    The first RF re his character was revealed early by little shady things. I spoke to him about it, and along with starting to church, he really seemed to start to grow up. He evidently just realized that he couldn’t pull me into his web of behavior, so he took it under ground.

    Lots of things through the years, but he managed to fool me and quite frankly a lot of other folks. When I think back, how or why he didn’t get outed years before he did is beyond me.

    But I am so glad he did get outed, and his house of cards fell all around him.

    He went to fantasy land, and all he had left was his “rat faced whore”. (tip of the hat to C6)

  • Unrecognized red flags early on, that I can see were Kmart blue light beacons now.
    Sitting at a traffic light windows down, just dating a couple of months comes to mind. FW was driving and some guy in his teens, like we were, dared looked at me sitting in the passenger seat from his car alongside ours. FW started cursing him out and yelling at him, it was pretty embarrassing. I was shocked at him being so jealous and how ridiculous a reaction that was.
    Another time, he literally crushed pretzels on some drunk guy’s nose at a party we were at. The guy had asked me for a kiss. Then at another engagement party, we needed intervention because FW was about to go out in the street with a much older guy who had kissed me on the neck dancing and kick the shit out of him. It was hard to calm him back down, his eyes were black and scary.
    He was madly jealous and I saw the possession as maybe a bit romantic, a bit immature, probably something he would just grow out of overtime.
    He must really love me to be that protective, a voice inside me also said. (An 18 year old’s inexperienced lens is not very reliable!) 🙄
    Navigating relationships so needs to be taught in school, they need to clear one of the 8 years they repeat over and over the parts of the cell, endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi bodies, ribosomes and help young kids learn to safeguard their lives instead!
    There were many assorted incidences of uncontrolled rage early on, always over inconsequential trivia. ( different ethnicity than me? thought he might just display more passion about life than others?)
    In retrospect, I had too high a degree of what I’ve termed “put-up-with-it-ness” and always opted for patience and understanding over what I see now as red as you get flags to avoid.
    His FOO took some adjustment for me too. I came from a really loving, supportive fun family, no one yelled and screamed at one another on the regular like his did.
    His family advertised ‘family is everything’, but their familial interactions were out of control, loud, lots of yelling even at holiday dinners, occasionally throwing things, which they would then laugh about later together. It was kind of traumatic to adjust to really, but I thought I felt some love mixed in with it, so figured it was just a different expression of love than I knew.
    Looking back, I also sensed a hint of meanness under the surface, but I labeled it passionate love and care, just expressed differently than my own family would.
    I was his personal butterfly with a domed lid over my head and he was the wild and free lion roaming the savannah to his heart’s content. A misogynistic, toxic and controlling stance that I chose to believe was deep forever love. It was not.
    My gut knew on some level, but I was in uncharted waters I didn’t have the skills or the tools in my pocket to get through.

    • I had the same experience with his family. They were nice enough and mom and dad were, I believe, truly good people, but my god the yelling and temper tantrums from the whole family. I even saw his dad and brother rolling round on the floor fighting one time. My family was even bigger but we did NOT yell and scream at each other. I guess we just didn’t have those tempers but it was the biggest shock ever for me when I discovered his raging temper. That’s probably the biggest no-no for me. I will NEVER live with anyone again. No way would I put up with that yelling and screaming!

    • My ex’s family also portrayed “family is everything,” which was attractive.

      No, it was family their way, period. When I “strayed” and asked for a separation because of my ex’s bad behavior, I became the family enemy as they circled their wagons around him. I was shocked, but I shouldn’t have been.

      Thankfully, I figured it all out in the end, but it was painful.

  • I get anxiety just from reading these stories. So not ready to “jump in that pool” yet :S

    • I had the same thought. The ex has been out of my life for some time, and I just can’t imagine putting a toe into the dating pool. I’m sixty-something, and all the guys in that age group who ask me out have glaring issues. One was on his third DUI, and another was a priest who got married because he seduced a nun and then she divorced him for unknown reasons. The most recent ask is the polar opposite of me in every way. I think mutual friends put him up to it. Nope…

  • Most recently: Devaluing passive aggressive comments that I always took wrong. Apparently my defensiveness also showed a lack of humor. In the distant past, 15 to 20 page love letters sent bi weekly, regarding how special I was should’ve been a big clue.

  • I met my cheater in college, so I cut myself some slack for being too young to have much life experience. But red flags I notice in hindsight include:

    Smart but failing academically, because she wouldn’t put in the work;
    Lack of reciprocity, in actions and words (e.g., let me type her term papers and give her gifts and pay for everything, soaked up praise but never returned it, etc.);
    Yearned to be hip and trendy and thought of as young;
    Reveled in telling me stories about breaking other boys’ hearts;
    Had no goals or plans for her life (she considered them dull and oppressive and was infatuated with “spontaneity”);
    Very comfortable having others pay her way (her parents, me);
    Always waited until the last minute to get things done;
    Never saved—or even thought about—money;
    Few close female friends, but lots of male friends;
    Never showed much emotion (saw her cry maybe 3 times in 25 years, and always at the prospect of what she had lost);
    Wouldn’t engage with my family;
    Played up the cool girl / nerd guy story line for our relationship (think: Beauty and the Beast).

    I could go on. The unifying threads for most of these are selfishness, poor adulting skills, and an inability to defer gratification. I now see reciprocity as the single most important indicator of a good partner.

    • “Few close female friends, but lots of male friends.”
      This is one worth thinking about, in regard to opposite-sex couples. Lots of chumps here report spouses/significant others who have entourages of opposite sex friends to jog with, go to the gym with have lunch with, and so on, pretending that none of that behavior is about gratifying emotional or sexual needs in ways that trivialize or cheat the primary relationship. And that defense for that behavior? “You don’t want me to have any friends.” “You are pathologically jealous.” “We’re just friends.”

      • great point. This was true of my ex as well. Not an entourage exactly, but several over the years, plus the one constant who turned out to be the AP…

    • Showed no emotions. This was a reminder that I had a similar experience but for some reason did not question it. I never saw a variety of emotions from him. Maybe they were not visible, I am mot sure. I saw him crying in real life only twice and in 15 years, and those tears did not last more than a few seconds.
      He would get tearful while watching movies though, but never in real life.

    • I met one of my fuckwits in college too, and I think he groomed me for all the others who followed because he traumatized me so badly. I sincerely would not be surprised if he showed up in the news one day for serial murder.

      All the red flags were there from the start, but the biggest one which I completely missed was how lazy and mediocre he was and how delusional he was about it.

      He had average grades and didn’t participate in any extracurriculars unless you count beer pong as a contact sport, yet he was shocked (SHOCKED!) when he kept getting rejected from PhD programs. He applied for years and got rejected from every single one until he gave up.

      He really thought he was special and couldn’t handle the world not rewarding him for simply showing up. Now, I recognize it as grandiosity. The guy was delusional.

      For reference, our college didn’t have the brand recognition of the Ivies, but we were known for sending graduates to them. Many of our classmates went on to globally ranked grad programs in business, medicine, and law. The ones who didn’t still graduated with good job offers. Our school had fantastic resources, if you used them.

      Fuckwit and all his enabler friends didn’t. It’s been 20 years and I don’t keep up on any of them anymore but I found it telling that 10 years after graduation, all of them were in dead end jobs and not even using their degrees.

      In hindsight, I think a lot of his rage stemmed from the fact that I was better than him. He saw it, but I didn’t at the time. Our community recognized me as smart, people liked me, and I was clearly going places. Fuckwit couldn’t handle it.

    • I completely forgot about my ex-H’s behavior in college. He was an ok student but never applied himself and would rather party than do homework. He typically skipped classes and only showed up for tests and the final exam. He referred to the end of the semester always as his 2 week challenge to get a passing grade. Despite several 4.0 semesters, I certainly missed his 🚩 when it came to him attending class.

  • what i took as having a “close” family was, in fact, an enmeshed family with absolutely no boundaries.
    love bombing galore
    rushing the subject of marriage after we had been dating for approx. 6 weeks
    the night before we married i was nervous and called him, seeking reassurance. he was short/verbally cruel with me because he was going out with his friends

  • Solving problems by lying. Being too cowardly to just tell people the real reason he didn’t want to do something. I don’t know why I never thought he would turn it on me.

    Misappropriating funds. He would tell people an event he organized was for a charity for a disease he had, and then never make the donation. He thought it was alright because he had the disease so the donors were still supporting it in a way.

    He would say things like “men are pigs” or “don’t you wish you had one day to do things with no consequences” and I just dismissed it as joking.

    Selfishness and lack of reciprocity. His needs/desires came first. We always had to do what he wanted, which wasn’t usually a problem since we shared most tastes and hobbies. When what I wanted to do was unpleasant or boring to him, “why would I expect him to do that?” It made sense at the time.

    Always right, couldn’t handle criticism. Couldn’t even take constructive feedback. He would complain about things, I’d give suggestions for how to improve something, he’d ignore it and keep doing the same thing. It was always me who had to change, never him. This applied to everything from his jobs to our sex life.

    Blameless. Anything that went wrong was never his fault, it was always some other person being an idiot, or out to get him, or cheating.

  • Ugh. So many🚩 🚩

    When we had just been married, we went for a hike up a small mountain that was unfamiliar to both of us. For no reason that I could discern, he decided to charge ahead. We hadn’t had a fight. We hadn’t exchanged words. He just bounded ahead, out of sight. I screamed for him. He never turned back. I just kept following the blazes and met him at the car. I was barely 24 at the time. He didn’t apologize or explain.

    I remember wanting to jump out of the car as we drove back on the highway.

    Still writing thank-you notes for wedding gifts and too embarrassed to admit I married the wrong person.

    • Spinach
      If the relationship isn’t right. It isn’t right. If you need to get out then go and make no excuses about it and don’t be embarrassed about it. Life is too short to allow yourself to be denigrated and abused.

      • Agree, Kathy. That was almost 40 years ago. I’m well out of that relationship. The affair was the 2 x 4 that knocked me out of that mirage (which, by the way, I’d come to believe was actually a pretty good mirage). #delusional As I’ve said before, there were so many red flags, I thought I was in a parade.

    • I knew something wasn’t right (understatement), and I was confused, hurt, and very afraid. I remember thinking that I should call my older sister and ask for help. But I didn’t. In part, I didn’t call be cause I was embarrassed.

      The experience had the effect of putting me on edge. But I was so confused because I didn’t know what caused his behavior. It’s tough to walk on egg shells when you can’t see the shells or the egg or know what caused or would cause the egg to break.

      I had my hunches. I even went so far as to hope his favorite hockey team would win so that he would be happy. 🤦🏻‍♀️ And I catered to him in so many other ways. Ugh. He controlled in this way and/or I allowed him to control.

      I went on to have 3 kids with that man and stay married for 35 years.

      It wasn’t all bad. He tossed a fair number of breadcrumbs my way. But the overall effect–his controlling me with his moods–sucked.

      I wish I could go back and tell me younger self:
      1. leave if anyone treats you this way (to hell with embarrassment and pride)
      2. don’t blame yourself
      3. don’t mistake breadcrumbs for a meal
      4. don’t fawn and people please
      5. don’t be so afraid of someone’s moods and anger

      • Amen Spinach. Our lives with a FW are a mirror.

        Glad you are free. As am I. In another lifetime we would be great friends 🤗

    • Spinach my favourite was when FW and I went walking down a hill through a forest in Turkey. We heard several dogs barking part way down. Fw was following behind me. Not being locals, we werent sure whether they were wild. As the barking got closer it wasnt worth risking, so I turned around to run back up the hill. Lo and behold when I turned around FW had already run off. What a hero. A modern day Mr Darcy.

      • ooh one more ~ we were on a bus in India and for some reason FW sat a few seats behind me. I was then harassed by a group of local men for most of the trip. FW sat there reading his book not a care in the world. I thought he was vague. I suspect now he was aware, and enjoyed it. Freak.

  • Another “fun” red flag from the very early days of dating.. I was very tall and slim back then (well, I’m still tall, just not that skinny anymore:), I had a fashion model figure basically. And he asked me, how tall I was.. I said 178cm and he said that’s too much, that he always said to himself he wouldn’t date a girl taller than 175cm. 😀 I found it very strange and it didn’t make me feel good. I told him that usually guys liked that about me, that it was an asset, long legs and all that.. and he just said not for him. Oh, but 3cm less is okay? Jesus, are you 10 years old or something? I would’ve understood this “limit”, if he was a short man, but he was 10+ cm taller than me, so I really didn’t get it. But now I do.. it was just one of the forms of not accepting me as I am and making me feel less than..

      • Totally – she has a figure most would consider enviable, and he needs to knock her down a peg or two about precisely that.

    • That comment about your height…. That sounds like a textbook “neg”, an emotional manipulation technique from the pick-up artist community. It feels sort of intimate, that they’re observant about you. It’s engaging, since you want to correct a misunderstanding. Not good.

  • When we were dating he would disappear for days. No warning. Just gone. And no logical explanation or accountability when he resurfaced. It was like every thing he did was a “fuck you Genesis”.
    He continued that behavior when we were married. We had 3 preschoolers, and he would just not to come home for a few days, no arrangements, no warnings, and certainly no accountability when he came back.
    It was mindfucking.
    We had arranged our work schedules so someone would always be home with the kids, and it was a huge issue because I suddenly had to procure childcare at 5 am for 3 little kids.
    Eventually I learned my lesson and stopped relying on him to do anything (helpful) consistently.
    This is, sadly, only one example of many red flags, and the damaging behaviors continued and increased during the rest of the marriage.

        • He was just a regular old asshole. Wanted absolute fealty but wouldn’t/couldn’t give it.
          I still don’t know what he did during most of those times, and what he claimed he was doing was probably a lie anyway. It was before cell phone/cell phone camera days, so it was pretty hard to refute/disprove much. It was awful, though, being married to someone who had no accountability or responsibility to his wife or his family.
          Even after cell phones and cameras came out he would still deny deny deny, even with proof. It was maddening.

  • His friends. Players. Drinkers. Womanisers. My husband was a bad boy who prayed more that I. Now I know why.

    • This. His friends openly cheated on, and spoke disrespectfully of their wives and girlfriends. At the time, I thought, “Well, that’s them, that’s not him; he’s different.” I was so naive. How can you have a real friendship with people whose values are the opposite of yours?

  • I had absolutely no idea what a personality disordered narcissistic sociopath was before I met my ex. Now I could write a thesis on it but back then I really had no idea. I now realise I was lovebombed in the early days which I interpreted then as a sign that he loved me madly. I now realise it’s part of the relationship cycle of those on the psychopathy spectrum. As is glib, superficial charm which he had in spades. He was so good at concealing his true self,his secret underground harem,so cunning and devious. However despite his dubious skills there were things I now recognise as red flags like the very occasional volcanic rage if he didn’t get his own way,the small lies that I shrugged off that were in fact indicators of his enormous capacity for lying. Looking back, he was a shady fucker and I’m embarrassed that I was so taken in by such a creep.

  • Great Friday Challenge.

    In no particular order…

    She didn’t have many friends, and considering we met when she was in her senior year of college, I found it bizarre. She mentioned that she stopped being friends with her best childhood friend, and then high school friend, because “they weren’t bringing anything to the table.” And she was only friends with one of the three other girls she lived with during her senior year of college. I eventually “didn’t bring anything to the table” either lol.

    She never became friends with the girlfriends/wives of my bestfriends. Those women would all plan to do something, and my then girlfriend was never included because she never attempted or cared to be part of that group. Which is fine, you don’t have to be friends with everyone, but it continued the pattern from what I mentioned above.

    She wasn’t willing to even feign interest in things I was interested in. She didn’t have to care about my interests, but if you care about me at least care that I care about something. Whether it was my job, our family history, having a nice lawn, sports, it didn’t matter. If she wasn’t interested in it, we didn’t talk about it. I could give a shit about the Royal Family, but she cared about it so I learned it. I cared that she cared. That wasn’t reciprocated, and I should have taken note of that. But I was young, and I’m now filled with royal history back to William the Conqueror. We even went to the site of the Battle of Hastings! (Admittedly, it was a good trip, and I do enjoy history.)

    She yelled at my mother many times during wedding planning. My parents paid for a significant chunk of our wedding, and she yelled at my mother over the guests my mother wanted included, on my parents own dime. That should have been the largest flag, but alas, being young and stupid and probably burdened by societal pressure of marriage and my own weak constitution led me down the aisle with her just a few weeks later.

    It’s funny, after we divorced many of my friends admitted they’re relieved they don’t have to interact with my ex any longer. My family is happy for me, and some of HER family members are happy for me. To live and learn.

  • Early on he lied about dumb inconsequential things where I’d get upset about the lie, he’d pull a “huh? I dont know what you’re talking about” until relenting and apologizing, saying he’d do better, etc… but I’d feel guilty for ‘nagging’. 🙄

    The biggest one I remember was lying about staying up after texting me he was going to bed. I didn’t care about the staying up because we all need our alone time and i’d literally tell him something like, “hey gonna go relax a bit talk to you tomorrow” or whatever. But when I’d see him online after getting the “oh man I’m so tired gonna catch those zz’s” I’d instantly get upset and ruminate over confronting him about it. Then feel guilty. Then sad. Over and over again.

    If he can lie about this what else will he lie about? (Apparently a whole ass affair but I digress 🙃) This went on for YEARS until I.. just stopped trying to change anything. After he saw first hand how my dad’s cheating + desertion affected me as he was literally there the night my mom kicked him out (!!!) I always thought he wouldnt do.. this, yknow? ‘Oh he lies about dumb shit but he wouldnt lie about THAT’ 🙄 Spackle spackle cover those flags 🚩🚩🚩

    Oh this reminded me! This is 2010/11 a year or 2 into our relationship and I remember checking his messages one day he was in the shower.. to see him texting a coworker late at night after giving me the going to bed spiel. We got into a fight and I stopped talking to him for a bit as he wrote POETRY about how I was the best thing in his life and it ended in me getting the only piece of jewelry he’d ever bought me in the 14 years we were together. I look back on all that and think what the fuck was I thinking?

    • Thinking of other things I excused or convinced myself was fine..

      He didn’t mention me on social media. If we went to lunch he’d take a photo of his meals caption it with “out to lunch!” And never mention “..with [email protected]” or “..with my gf”. I didn’t use any SM so I figured.. eh that’s fine 🤷‍♀️ again feeling guilty because it made me sad. Then it got worse.

      He started streaming on Twitch (videogame stuff) a few years ago (so we’re 10+ years into this and living together) and I still didn’t really exist. Only his 2 closest online friends knew about me. He claimed wanting privacy and not mixing his online life with his outside one.. but in reality it just made sexting online friends he made and viewers of his easier… and then the whole secret relationship he started with another streamer. And what made it worse is I knew (of) these people! By name! We would TALK about them!

      I excused so many things that felt off over the years because I was in love. Yeah, chump love lmao

  • Job hopping because no one understands his magnificence. Skipping custody time with his kiddo. Bragging about accomplishments. Showing off. No social graces. Stories about doing things that were illegal or corrupt or unkind. Mean responses when his mother called. Being CHEAP.

    (Good Lord, what was I thinking?)

  • -I know this will sound self-serving but honest to goodness I have beaten myself up looking back to search for the red flags I missed throughout 30 years of marriage and my message is –
    -There Were None.
    -Beware of the extremely clever narcissist- the ones who can hide a deep double life extremely well.
    -I was berated after Discovery with an onslaught of “ you must have know, how could you not know, you were in denial, you turned a blind eye to it, etc etc etc”.
    -It’s simply not true. There were no red flags and I was always looking.
    – In my 20’s I was first married for a very short time to a drunk – I filed my own divorce and left. I didn’t date recklessly – I didn’t go to bars to meet men – I was very very careful – I went to grad school and law school at night working full time
    – I dated the fkwit for 2 years before getting married – I didn’t want to make another heartbreaking mistake
    -throughout the 30 years of marriage to Fkwit he was kind, a good provider, a well/known physician, good to my aging parents, good to his aging parents, we had an excellent sex life, there were no bad arguments, we both worked and saved money and supported our aging parents, we traveled, there was simply no sign – -I wasn’t being blind.
    -My advice to newbies is you can be fooled – a really clever narcissist can cast a big king shadow – the masses will love him – the shadow they cast over you isolates you – maybe the gleaming glare of his bright brilliant career in my face blinded me but honest to goodness I could not have been more careful – if someone wants to cheat they can and they will –
    -After 30 years of his whoring around he put his magic wand in the wrong whore and she began to extort money from him – he paid – she returned- he paid- she returned – then Harvey went to jail – then the #me too movement started, then the whore came after me – then Fkwit ran to me for help. Big man had no street smarts and cowered like a wet rag- it was disgusting. It’s too late for me to get the decades I spent with him back but I am still vertical – the shaking inside never goes away – at least not for me – hard to look at past photos etc – but trust me – I was very very careful and I got fooled.

    • I believe you! I was always looking for red flags as he seemed too perfect in every way ( and I was D so I was nervous). But you don’t leave someone because they are great.

    • Thank you for this, Jo. Mine was also very, very covert. When he performed his glorious discard – it was a shock. Even my mother, who never liked him, said, “I did not see that coming.” He was an ass to me always, but otherwise seemed to be very normally in a long term marriage, career and family man.

    • “Beware of the extremely clever narcissist- the ones who can hide a deep double life extremely well.”

      Yes, they are rare, but there are some that can control the persona they want everyone to see for years.

    • I agree. Certain FW are experts, and I think they make use of their choice of career. The FW I was married to, was in the habit of going into work late, then coming home late. He would promise that he “would try” to go in earlier when we had young kids. Nope, never happened. His work required business trips several times a month. He could go more often to visit the properties, and he did. He extended flights as long as he could, to have a last night out of town. When I saw other married people in his firm, in the same position, they did not travel as much. They took their family with them sometimes. When he changed jobs, which was approximately every 2 years, he chose the jobs with more travel, not less. Of course he told me he wanted to be at home more. Later I was able to recognize that what he said, and what he did, did not correspond.

  • Severe road rage – to the extent of tailgating the poor vehicle and screaming out window at them. Other red flag was his persistent name dropping and being over charming around other people – especially women.

  • Berating your friends to the point you believe it too and slowly drop them one by one! Making sure you only have your eyes on him. I was very young and easily controlled. Any male friend I made was met with ‘he fancies you, I don’t like him’…. Even gay friends!

    I wasn’t allowed a life unless it was serving him.

    Thankfully I am free now ❤️

  • There were certainly fairly overt ones I missed because I was trained all my life by abusive family to accommodate and make excuses for their bullying — always give the benefit of the doubt and turn the other cheek. Things that are obvious now, but I let them go with partners because I wanted to see each through the best lens I could, because I thought I was supposed to do that. Years of therapy is helping me shed that skin.

    But I have realized over the years that the real key — the one I didn’t grasp until recently, to my ongoing dismay — is to be better at catching the subtler ones that show up early on. This is the “fix your picker” stuff for me. How to see it sooner. How to believe myself right away. How to know my own worth and be willing to let a person go early go if they aren’t offering what I want.

    So here are a few of the things I have promised myself I will not tolerate again early in a relationship, because I know what they become later.

    A person who, when their mood or behavior suddenly changes, doesn’t clearly and openly discuss what’s going on with them, even if given hours to think through the emotions.
    A person who isn’t solid about making and keeping small agreements.
    A person who isn’t skilled with accountable apologizing, including a person who apologizes easily but doesn’t proactively pursue clear and effective effort toward remedy of the act that caused the harm. Even about small things.
    A person who views any disagreement with their views as contradicting them and/or insulting them.

    -A person who, upon hearing my ethics, beliefs, or values, views my statement as an unfair ultimatum to feel the same way and want the same things.

    A person who consistently uses lazy, vitriolic language about people they disagree with and doesn’t use respectful language to clarify the reasons they feel the way they do. Hand-in-hand with that is the person who sees my ability to articulate my reasons for my point of view as a personal attack on them.
    A person who doesn’t openly and respectfully discuss sex and consent before, during, AND after sex, using clear and adult-level language, without sophomoric or pornspeaky terms.
    A person who doesn’t warmly embrace getting to know people I’m close to. (Extroversion isn’t required. Respect and kindness are.)
    A person who TOO warmly embraces getting to know people I’m close to. (It’s friendship, not a sales job, here to meet and connect, not to be impressed by you, and they’re my people, not yours.)
    A person who acts like me telling my own stories about myself and my life is boring, or selfish, or exasperating. (If I seek intimacy with you, I want us to know each others’ stories and motivators and challenges. If you don’t crave that exchange like I do, our foundation won’t be level.)
    A person who finds it funny to confuse and fool small children, animals, anyone who is vulnerable… and ultimately who behaves in ways that attempt to make others appear foolish or weak. This includes hypercompetitive behaviors in any subject area, even if the person isn’t a sore loser but is a gloaty winner.

    You’ll notice my lack of “why” statements. I don’t really care much about the reasons why a person may act these ways. I just know every one of these behaviors consistently grows into very bad things later in my own experience.

    That’s the thing about getting to be the captain of your own ship in life. It doesn’t matter why you don’t want a thing in your life. It’s YOUR life, and you get to choose where it goes and how you go there. So you don’t have to justify your boundaries. Period. Damn, but I wish I had learned that decades earlier.

    • (Dude, weird formatting issues. I guess this system started reading some.punctuation as HTML again?)

      • This is a great list. Thanks for the reminder about “finding it funny to confuse and fool small children, animals, anyone who is vulnerable.” I have an ex who teaches kids music; he would talk after a work day about things he said to them that were just unnecessarily confusing or misleading, and to him it was a funny joke.

        • Yes!
          Has anyone ever seen the Jimmy Kimmel bit where parents film themselves the morning after Halloween? They tell their kids the candy is all gone, the parent ate it. Then film the childrens’ reactions. And then it goes on national television and YouTube and etc. What!?!

          He plays cruel April Fool’s tricks on our young kids.

          He insults or hurts them and gets away with it because he was “just kidding”. I teach my kids that a joke is not funny unless everyone thinks it is funny.

          The asshole had to consistently one-up a handicapped 5 year old.
          What the hell?

          Oh and he’d also talk to his dog in a bright voice, but use bad words.

          For example, normal people will get the dog all excited and say “hey boy, you wanna go for a walk? Go outside? Good boy!” etc.

          He’d say “do you want to get euthanized? Want to go to the vet and die? Kill you? Good boy!”.

          Of course the dog did not understand the words and was just reacting to his excited tone of voice.

          But what a sick fuck.

          As I write this, I can’t even believe it’s true…

    • Great list! I admire your ability to put it all down.

      About a year after my divorce, I realized that I did not like 2 people at work, and I could articulate why (to myself). This was new, and I realized that all my life, I had held myself to the standard of “trying to see the good in others.” I know this was heavily recommended by my mother, because I didn’t like one of my brothers, but it was so harmful. My brother was covertly abusive and derogatory and I was too little to know how to tell my mom.

      But what a harmful way to live! To be taught to think that everyone is “good” translated in my young mind, to “everyone is better than you.” And to be dismissed when trying to tell someone when bad things are happening, translated to “suffer in silence.” I did not learn effective ways of protecting myself.
      I liked it when my daughter would tell me why she was no longer friends with certain people- she always had good reasons! I wish I had had that freedom & acceptance when I was young.

      • To be taught to think that everyone is “good” translated in my young mind, to “everyone is better than you.”

        Good point at the heart of this “not seeing red flags”. I’m sure many relate to that.

    • “A person who finds it funny to confuse and fool small children”

      OMG this! When our son was little, he (as all little kids do) asked a lot of questions. FW would so often make up ridiculous answers and stories as a reply. I’d get upset, because little kids want to KNOW why the sky is blue. They have no experience. They trust parents and adults to tell them. Like, the kid is 3. Tell him the truth. And responding that it’s the smurfs in the sky or something does a huge disservice to the kid (I can’t remember the things FW said, I’ve blocked them from my memory, but they were ludicrous). He thought it was funny and didn’t see an issue.

  • Things my ex husband started doing:

    Never inviting me out with friends. Kept a clear divide between me and his workmates/friends. We work in the same industry so there was no reason to never invite me out to social stuff. I’m assuming he invited his AP.
    Actively discouraging contact with his family (we lived overseas from them and he’d started telling them him and I getting divorced while also telling them about his new “girlfriend”. They never said a word to me).
    Rather than unfriending/blocking the woman I was worried about on Instagram – he got angry with me and “deleted” his whole account. I later found out he’d blocked me so I couldn’t see him online. He still remains friends with his AP on social media and I’m still blocked.
    He got upset once when I’d put a photo of him on my Instagram. I guess someone who knew about his “girlfriend” thought that was weird.
    He got upset that my makeup rubbed off on his spare motorcycle helmet when I wore it (he also got his AP to wear it and I guess didn’t want her to notice!).

    There’s so many but those come to mind..

  • pfft….. just pre-me, her and her BFF were not speaking b/c she slept with the bf // she broke up with me to sleep with cross-country traveling motorcycling’ X-bf (so it was legal), then convinced me she and I should get back together after he left // She slept with local on trip to Mexico….

    then we got married. And all was fine for 4 years. And then, well, here I am.

    I was young & dumb. I needed a HUGE dope-slap.

    • I’ve learned to be forgiving to younger me. She had a sheltered childhood and was naïve and optimistic and believed the best of everyone. I could wish that she hadn’t been, but that would have had to have been learned from bad experiences.

  • well into the fairytale love affair, I found out that his former spouse had been blindsided by the end of their long marriage. He was D when we met. That was a red flag for me, but I was in deep.
    His general perfection, and that he liked to do everything I liked to do all the time was bizarre to me, but all his actions were great, so what do you do with that?

  • I wonder about the question in this challenge a lot because in spite of my ex’s “wounds” and struggles, and the difficulties in our relationship, I was blindsided when I learned he was a cheater who’d led at least a seven year double life, and I never dreamt he would become physically abusive. In fact, this all was shocking to most who knew him/us, and I think that’s why so many people can’t/won’t believe it still, even if they witnessed it firsthand.

    How will I avoid a covert FW in the future? (Nearly three years separated and still haven’t ventured out on a single date, so not too worried at the moment.) Some of the pre-cheating (I think?), character red flags:

    -Years of overt and covert substance abuse, and zero amends upon “sobriety,” which was all about him (at my ongoing expense)
    -Circular conversations that always left me feeling sad, at fault and confused
    -Loved to argue with people and was always right
    -Alternately TFC/patronizing and in charge
    -Road rage
    -Class clown, center of attention
    Felt entitled to do/take whatever he wanted
    -Eccentric and hated any rules, norms and expectations
    -Poor hygiene, filthy housekeeping, hoarder and overly sentimental about objects — yet judged others harshly for the same kinds of things
    -Enmeshed with, yet always fighting with, his mother; not respectful towards the women in his life (me, his mother and sister)
    -Couldn’t talk about or plan for the future with me, yet had no problem letting me invest in him and repeatedly made unilateral decisions that affected us both
    -Loved selfies and self-focused social media
    -Called me by a nickname (I didn’t like) from the very start, rarely calling me by my real name
    -Focused on how I was small and sweet, constantly questioned my judgement, and undermined my confidence with words and actions designed to make me feel less strong, capable and responsible than I was/am; complained about my insecurities, yet seems threatened by my strengths and when I displayed confidence
    -Was a bully (tickling, poking, treating me like a little sister) despite my protests
    -Subtly sexist and racist; immature and callous “jokes”
    -Loved keeping secrets, since childhood, and almost took pride in this
    -I was more involved in planning and communicating with his family than he was, and I showed far more affection and interest in his niece and nephew — even though I felt like a second-class citizen because we weren’t married and I wasn’t “family”; he let me/asked me to do this, and he complained about his mother and the needy dynamic all the time, but he never showed appreciation and actually got defensive any time I tried to advocate for myself or find a better solution

    The actual cheating red flags were the “obvious” — though not at the time — ones. Unfortunately, I was far too deep to see and believe these by then.

    Phone secrecy
    Nothing made sense
    Devalued and treated me like the enemy, withdrew affection
    Cried and apologized for no reason sometimes
    Etc, etc

    • There are so many stories here of FWs having weird relationships with their mothers, B&R. I now know this is one of the biggest red flags there are. If only we knew then.

      • I’ve only realized this is so true. I came across The Dual Mothership Model by Sam Vatkin about their over-involved relationship with their mother which deeply resonated with me about FW. He and his older brother were still living with mummy at 30 and 33 and she behaved as if they were her partners – skin crawling material. Older brother lived with mummy till she died at 98 and he was 69. She tried her hardest to stop our marriage because I just wasn’t good enough for her precious son. Wish she had! I suspect because she wanted him for herself. After reading Sam Vatkin I believe FW was just looking for a mummy substitute (which sadly I was for 40 years) so that he could give the appearance of being “normal.” He was anything but! I took responsibility for everything while he avoided adulting, including supporting him for 10 years when he wouldn’t work. My mother warned me but I didn’t listen sadly.
        It’s an interesting read.

    • Yes that too! I know that mothers-in-law are a fraught subject, but the fool would not STFU about how cool and groovy his mother was. I took one look at her and recognized her for the whiskey-swilling, leather-skinned nude beach ho she was. The ex would sit close to her on a sofa, holding hands, his head resting on her shoulder and wearing a fatuous look. She kept inviting us to go to the nude beach with her and her huge, hairy boyfriend, and I don’t think she ever figured out why I suddenly needed to leave every time she suggested it.

      My dear grandmother, rest her, was nobody’s fool, She observed the ex and his Mommy on a few occasions and, phrasing it as gracefully as she could, asked me why I didn’t throw up at the sight.

      Whuh? Duh? What do you see that I don’t see, Grandma?

      • I was having a bad day and your description of her is delicious…in a good gross way. Thank you so much. 💜 I got a sick feeling that if you had gone to the nude beach….😟

        Nude beach twister might have been on the agenda.

        • Eww yuck hells to the no. I get the creepy crawlies and head for the exits at the merest hint of this kind of sh!t.

          After I posted this I remembered that FW Mommy was quite a beauty in her youth. I know this for a fact because FW used to show me the “don’t I look just like Marilyn Monroe” picture of her that he carried in his wallet. Sadly by the time I met her it was apparent she had been rode hard and put away wet.

          To this day I can’t believe I didn’t see what was right in front of my nose for years.

  • He Drinks NyQuil

    VERY early in our dating, he claimed he was sober then mentioned to me he drank NyQuil to go to sleep when he got home from swing shift. (NyQuil is like hard liquor and a no-no for alcoholics in recovery, as is mouthwash with alcohol in it). Along with telling me he lied about his sobriety and fessed up after his sponsor threw him a one-year sobriety party. But he said he had changed, learned. I probably figured if he was still lying he would not have shared these stories with me.

    Reneging On Promises

    Too many to list, but he came through just enough for me to overlook the fact that what he promised most likely would not happen.

    The Female Study Partner

    When taking a class at a local junior college, I came home from work to find him and a woman he said was his study partner. They were clothed, sitting at the desk, not close to or touching each other but I got That Feeling. He told me he had to have a female study partner because there were no other guys in the class. He said he was not attracted to her. Not long after, I answered the phone at home. It was a guy, from the class, who wanted to borrow his notes. A while after that, he admitted being attracted to her. I did not know what to do. At that time, I believed an affair was defined only by physical contact and I had no knowledge or evidence of that. I did not want to leave on suspicions only. I stayed with him for twenty four more years, a therapist on board the whole time. I now believe he was having an affair with Study Partner, and others over the course of our entire so-called relationship. That’s why I call affair partners cockroaches. For every one you see, there are more in the walls. Always.

    Had I left when I “should have”, I would not have my daughter and I would not trade her for all the riches in the universe.
    And I didn’t know then what I know now.

    It’s VERY important for me to learn as much as I can from this, and share it with her for her life going forward.


  • As far as FOO, when I was in 6th grade a kid used to pop rubber bands on my bare thighs (it was the 60’s and my mother dressed me in high fashion, barely long enough dresses) and he would walk by and knock the ruler out as I had my head in my desk causing the top of the desk to bang me on top of my head. My mom’s response…..”Awwww….. he LIKES you!” I remember being appalled at her response.

    Another kid in that same class used to make crude hand signals about sexual things he wanted to do to me. I complained to my mom, and again, “Awwww…..he just LIKES you. Boys are like that.” That kid rode his bike 5 miles to my house in the country on gravel roads to show up at my door one Saturday. I saw him and ran to my bedroom to hide. My mom came and got me and forced me to go out in the front yard and be nice – talk to him – because he liked me so much to ride his bike that far. Great start on intimate relationship rules, huh?

    In my marriage to FW, about five years in I had a new mortgage and two babies. We laid in bed one night and told our sexual history stories for the first time. His included a story of him and a friend getting a girl drunk in the back seat of a car while sitting up front in the car arguing over who would rape her first and who would go second. THAT was the moment, my fellow chumps, when I should have walked away. I was so scared and unsupported anywhere else in my life that staying with this man was the best option I believed I had.

    40 years later, it is very clear that he had exactly that same level of respect for me as he had for the anonymous girl in the back seat before me.

    I appreciate so much when this group will listen. Thank you!

    • Oh my god, tallgrass, I am so sorry that you spent all that time with such a sick man, but I’m glad you’re here sharing your story. I wish you well.

  • The earliest red flag was the relationship happened way too fast. We got serious after our first real date, were engaged within months, and married a year later. I thought it was romantic, but now I can see it was just insane. I didn’t know him, he didn’t know me.

    At first, he seemed like a together, responsible, good person, but it didn’t last. When he started running into problems with his career after a few years, he fell apart, started drinking way too much, and pretty much gave up on work. I clearly should have left then, but I thought it would get better. Looking back, it’s obvious that he couldn’t keep a job because he was arrogant and entitled. As for getting jobs, he was too thin-skinned to even get through the interview process – he couldn’t handle any judgment, much less rejection. He was highly qualified but nonetheless needed help from family or friends to get virtually every job he ever had.

    Also, within a year or two I realized that he often treated other people badly – waitresses, colleagues, old girlfriends, my family – but I thought it would never be aimed at me. I was wrong, and I wish I had realized that this meant he was a bad person, period.

    And he was way too close to his mom – he relied on her, was proud of her, and at the same time deeply resented her. I can see now that this was a very bad sign.

    I don’t know when he started cheating on me, but after 27 years of what I thought was a good marriage – although in retrospect it was only good because I brought so much to the table – he blew it up for an unattractive and amazingly rapacious side piece.

    • Other things that emerged over time – he never apologized, never compromised, maintained laser-like focus on what he wanted, only did nice things that were conspicuous and got him praise and attention.

  • It just hit me that focusing on red flags in my own behaviors and patterns, even in the early days of the relationship, could be more helpful than focusing on my ex’s initially hard-to-see/read, and even misleading (TFC doesn’t equal sensitive…) red flags. That is something I can reliably tune into and listen to if I enter enter into another relationship. FWs come in many flavors and wear many masks, and they can fool even discerning folks (especially those who are young and trusting and haven’t been through the chump wringer yet).

    • Yes, ignoring my gut from very early on is the biggest red flag in my own behavior that I am working really hard to pay attention to and act on now. Great point.

    • And to clarify, this is not about victim blaming. What I mean is that I can notice things like whether I am nervous to talk about the future, or find myself feeling more concerned with his feelings and desires than my own, or am making “unasked for” compromises I wouldn’t want to ask him to, or feel I had to make a big effort to be heard l, believed and listened to, etc. To paraphrase/misquote something CL once wrote that stuck with me, if you feel reliably confused, manipulation is the cause and it’s time to walk away. Easier and more productive than attempting to untangle the skein.

    • Yes, what my therapist said is, watch out for when you are putting on blinders (which is really the same thing as spackling). Are you second-guessing yourself? Are you making the relationship too important, such that you tolerate or ignore things that you shouldn’t?

  • Huge 🚩🚩🚩. Early in our relationship XH told me he was being sued for causing a fight at his fraternity (we were 22 when we met) and he laughed when he said he and another ‘bro had intimidated, stalked and harassed a witness 🤬😫. Why this didn’t alarm me and cause me to stop dating him is the question I ask myself. The answer is that I was raised by narcissists who abused me and I had been a homeless pregnant teen. I had managed to get myself through university with a baby to care for while getting free of her cheating physically abusive father. I met XH the following year at the beginning of law school. I was vulnerable to love bombing and the promise of economic stability. I was vulnerable to what XH seemed to offer— his family. A father in law to love and care for me and my toddler (my dad died in my arms when I was a teen). A family… security. That’s what he seemed to be offering. For 25 years we had that.

  • This is painful to answer, because the FW I married didn’t show any red flags, except for never being on time. Either he was way too early, if he liked the activity, or late, if he preferred to sleep in or eat more. Either way, it was HIS preference. But I have voices in my head saying, “well, if that’s the only thing that’s wrong, you’re lucky.” That leaves me with the alternative I chose to believe: that something is wrong with me, and that I need to work harder to be more friendly, happy, extroverted, content, etc.

    But our relationship wasn’t fulfilling to me, the sex sucked, and yet nothing was too off that I could figure it out. I was an inexperienced, naive young woman and told myself I was “frigid” and uptight, and it was my fault.

    It wasn’t until 3 years into marriage that he was arrested for public exposure. I was actually out of town visiting family with our first baby, & he obtained an attorney to help him pay the fine. It was a misdemeanor & he gave me an excuse about “adjusting his pants” and the woman who reported him was crazy. I believed him! First red flag & I ignored it.

    Another alternative explanation that I couldn’t have conceived 30 years ago, is that there are liars, con men, and deranged people who have worked all their life to present themselves as normal as possible. Now I have been able to read George Simon and Don Hennessy and Tracy to help me understand that some people are that effective at fooling others. The way I grew up also helped – the messages the abuser wanted me to hear and live by were already in my head: “See this as your fault, not mine! I’m experienced, you’re not! Take responsibility while I slack off! You are too serious! Give in a little! Overlook my faults! You’re not good enough! I’m important, not you. People like me better. You’re always crabby! You’re no fun!” I was in perpetual confusion, and rarely had any evidence of his cheating since it was almost all on business trips. I accepted the deterioration of what used to be a friendship and he was an expert at seeing when I needed just a glimmer of hope that he could be the guy I thought he was. He’d give me just enough crumbs to allow me to see that he could be a great husband/father, then he’d resort to his typical “absent” behavior, claiming he forgot, or was stressed by work. It took me much longer to understand the subtle putdowns, often in the form of facial expressions.

    Anyway, what I’ve learned is that there are con men & sheisters & psychopaths among us. Know your worth, take a long time to slowly get to know someone, and at the first instance of behavior that confuses you, step away and put a guard up.

    I am watchful over relationships with new people- men and women. I have learned to go slower even getting to know women who confide in me about their “cheater.” I’ve been fooled a few times, extending time and empathy, only to find out that they cheated too.

  • Oh my where do I start? Red flags:
    1) Never had any friend. Like never. Only had people he hanged around with whose names he could never remember
    2) Didn’t have a good relationship with his family. At all. Especially his mum who he blamed for not linking him with his biological dad. Only problem here is mum was raped at 14 by her friend’s older brothers. Got pregnant. Blamed her when she aced her fears, trauma,looked the other contacted bio dad and he only apologised and said he wasn’t ready to meet him.
    3) Was never there for me in my miscarriages. In fact blocked me after one and changed his number.
    4) Would always leave me waiting for him when I’d arrange for dates for upto 4 hrs before showing up
    5) Shady acquaintances who ended up being pot sellers.
    6) Lack of respect for his parent. Mum and step dad.
    7) Avoided any social media presence or smart phones
    8) Would sometimes switch phone off at night
    9) Didn’t show up for my grandfather’s funeral yet I have been there for all his family tragedies
    God I must have been blinded really blinded
    10) Abandoned me for 5 hrs to watch a football game after our sons funeral.
    11) Made me ride a bus when we could easily pay a taxi to my son’s funeral yetbi was literally crying and breaking down infront of everybody
    Lessons learned. Don’t wear pink tinted glasses. Believe them the first time.

  • After we dated a little while he eventually moved into my tiny apartment. One Friday he told me he was going skiing with his friend Ron and returning Sunday. That night he confessed to me he had taken his ex girlfriend with him because he dated her for 7 years and had promised her the trip.
    I threw him out of my apartment being we were living together and he lied and cheated. After awhile I took him back which was a terrible mistake. There were other red flags that I ignored after being married for 35 years. Wish I could have been wise enough to recognize that he was a narcissistic cheater and would never change. 😔

  • Several early red flags I missed or excused; very very low effort in the beginning for things like dates or holidays, but also moving too fast (I met his family 3 weeks after we started dating, at Thanksgiving). He called me at work 3-4 times a week to consult me about HIS WORK. I tried to be nice the first few times, thinking obviously this wouldn’t go on, it must have been really important, because NO ONE would do that regularly, it’s so disrespectful… this was before cell phones, and my work phone didn’t have caller ID, so I had to pick up every time not knowing if it was my boss, or someone else, or him. I finally put my foot down, and he acted SO HURT that I didn’t want to HELP him. Took multiple circular conversations over multiple days to finally get him to admit that it was not appropriate. The frequency went down, but then he would call with “a real emergency this time!” except… of course, it wasn’t. Then… the skid marks on his underwear. Honestly, if I had taken that (literal) shit seriously, I would have saved myself a world of heartbreak. He tried to tell me that men’s a-holes are different from women’s, and ALL MEN get poop in their pants. At least I put my foot down and said I was never every mingling my laundry with his and he had to do his own. A small thing, but it mattered.

    • Yeah, the skid marks, WTF is actually up with that? I think it’s just laziness and entitlement, but man, how gross… He didn’t always flush either, Jesus H Christ. 🙄 Seems like a lot of these guys have dubious personal hygiene. He wasn’t great about brushing his teeth, either.

  • The big red flag I should have heeded was her demand that I get a refund for the 2 carat engagement ring SHE chose, replace it with a 1 carat, and put the difference toward her car fund. She wanted this because her girlfriends in China thought it looked fake because of the size. I mistakenly chalked this up to cross-cultural differences instead of her obedience to the hive mind.

    The hive mind reared its ugly head in spectacular fashion when two of her girlfriends divorced within a year of each other. Apparently, my STBXW thought it was a fine idea and started an affair with my boss who was also a friend of 33 years.

    The wonderful upshot is a parasite is being dislodged and a snake has slithered away. Almost 7 months post-D day I am seeing the benefits of their selfish action. Be strong fellow Chumps. A better life is unfolding!

  • His alcoholism; we all believed that he had got and stayed sober, but after several years, he started drinking again and hooked up with primary schmoops, who is an even worse alcoholic than him.

    His over the top, behind closed doors tantrums over petty things, like a vehicle, television or computer not working, which included breaking things, screaming, smashing windows, and hitting or cutting himself. I've come to believe that objects have more inherent value for him than people.

    His lack of genuine emotion. He put on an affectionate act towards people and pets and claimed he was upset when they were ill or died, but I never saw any evidence of stress or grief at their loss. He grinned and referred to himself as "useless" when his mother was in poor health and decisions had to be made about her care (after our relationship ended, she died and he didn't even bother to visit her before she passed away).

    He wears a nice, helpful mask. He seemed nice and helpful to me, my family and other people in many ways, which is why I spackled over his issues for years, but it was just a tool for him to get people to like and trust him.

    The real him is the one that lied, cheated, schemed, joked about raping and beating me with with his then schmoops, grabbed me by the collar and held me in the air and threatened to kill our pets.

    • “His over the top, behind closed doors tantrums over petty things,”

      That one gets me. I got screamed at for ten minutes because I ran out of salt. First time in 21 years, but evidently it was the worst crime a wife appliance could commit. There were other scream fests and all for equally stupid things. I realized later that if running out of salt was the worst thing he could scream at me for, I couldn’t have been that bad.

      Why not scream at me for throwing things at him, for slamming cabinet doors, for disrespecting him, for drinking, for staying out all hours of the night, for treating his mother bad? Oh yeah, because I never did any of those things.

      • Yep, they’re always a victim in need of a villain to blame for their woes. Never having to deal with their gross tantrums is just another benefit of leaving them.

      • This!! Tantrums emerge as if by magic over literally nothing… HE forgot how to switch the TV input to the ROKU, there are 2 or 3 pieces of mail (his of course) sitting on the edge of the counter or a single hair catches his eye on the floor will launch the “Jesus Star do I need to clean Fucking floor” monologue from hell. He has the narc quest for housekeeping perfection thing – BIG TIME – hours of rage and stonewalling over my choice of dust mop or wet mop on any given day – not exaggerating. I would not coach anyone including a dog to eat off of our floors, not because they are dirty but because they might ingest a higher than average dose of floor cleaner and need poison control. Yep. Weirdly though – mister clean room really wants a dog. Shmoops can pick one once we are divorced….

        Looking back one huge red flag I missed was his weird total avoidance of his old clique from his former gym. He is big into selling the impression that he is everyone’s best friend, a great guy and makes acquaintances super easily but this one little corner of his life was a no go with no explanation. We’d run into “Joe” in line for coffee and he would refuse to introduce me. He got invited to parties and wouldn’t go. I found it weird and when I asked I was given a mysterious one sentence answer about his ex wife’s behavior at the gym before their divorce.

        Looking back I realize now that he raised the iron curtain not out of pain but to hide the fact that he originally met AP there when he was a “married single man” the first time around and didn’t want me to catch on. It took me about an hour to realize the truth when the same AP showed back up out of the blue with a vengeance on FB and Imessage years later with tons of references to both of their vehicles and her excitement at seeing his big truck in the parking lot. And yes, when I have seen responses from him they have been in kind. EWWW.

        Moral of the story – when something doesn’t track in a relationship to which you are committed don’t ignore it, the fact that you can’t bring it up without risking punishment is all you need to know. And if their ego needs the truth to stay hidden all the time you can’t work your way out of it…just Run!!!

  • -His behavior, both subtle and overt, around any attractive woman. His eyes would absolutely sparkle. And of course he had no qualms about pointing out that this woman or that woman was “so hot”, even if it was a friend of mine. We were in our 20s but I chalked it up to him just being a flirt, even though he did confess to cheating on a college girlfriend. Sigh.

    -Feeling very uncomfortable at his work holiday parties at the closeness he seemed to have with female coworkers. Yet I was the problem because I had “trust issues”. Oh the blame shifting.

    -Very condescending toward his mother, yet very enmeshed.

    -Road rage and aggressive driving

    -Never took any personal responsibility for anything that went wrong in his life—it was always someone else’s fault.

    This is my biggest lingering issue after—forgiving myself for sparkling over these red flags and marrying and having kids with him.

  • Early on, when we were dating, my fw told me about two women that he had sexual relationships with but never actually dated. Apparently they weren’t attractive enough to date but were fine for a quick hookup. He admitted that he was seeing them while he was in a long term relationship with another woman. One of those sex hookups was in the picture for two years and his former girlfriend never knew. Obviously, I should have run like the wind but I foolishly thought, “Well, that’s in the past. He wouldn’t do that to me.”

    Boy was I wrong.

  • Pre-marriage:

    *”How do you think you rank with other women in terms of appearance?”

    *”I’m worried that if you go to graduate school (I did!) you’ll lose your femininity.” Say what?

    *When I asked him why he was sulking while we were out to dinner with his family, he said that he wasn’t feeling well and got angry with me for asking. I registered this as childishness. If I’m not feeling well, I don’t act like an ass. Instead, i let people know that I’m ill. I don’t sulk and let others think that they’d done something to piss me off.]

    *When he had eye surgery, my sister asked, “How’s your eye.” His response? “How’s YOUR eye?”

    AAANNNNnnnnd I married him anyway. 🤦🏻‍♀️

    p.s. I’d like to point out here that if he were to read this post, he would deny all of it and claim I have a faulty memory. If he couldn’t deny what he’d done, he’d claim that I was too sensitive or a resentful person for remembering it.

    • Ha ha Spinach, even apart from “Montana”, I reckon we must be twins!!! Mine could “never remember” the crap he pulled, but if I had proof of it he claimed I kept a little black book!

    • My FW would deny everything I say about him too. After DDay his gaslighting me with my ‘faulty memory’ made me concerned that I was getting Alzheimer’s (in my 40’s). He also said I was a vengeful person, who didn’t know the meaning of unconditional love and who had no concept of forgiveness. Such is life with a complete narcissist…🤦‍♀️

      • Yep, Chump VonChumpster,
        I got the same. He said I was “vindictive” and unable to forgive.

        Fun times with a cluster B jerk.

        Btw, on some level, he knew he had psychological issues. He weaponized it, blaming me for not being more supportive. Say what? He said that I promised to love him in sickness and in health, but, because he felt I failed to do that, I had broken our vows, and, therefore (are you still with me, CN?) he was free to have an affair.


      • My ex also had me convinced I had a terrible memory. It was gaslighting extraordinaire. “I never said that!” “That’s not how it happened.” “What are you talking about?” “That was you who did that.” Etc.

        After we split, I discovered I actually have a fantastic memory. HE was the one who made so many mistakes about dates and times in the discovery paperwork. I could prove it with texts and photos and journal entries that things happened on specific times (I started writing stuff down because I was trying to convince myself I wasn’t crazy).

  • He was a project; other women and men (at the church we attended) told me that I wasn’t good enough for him which made me double down on ‘earning’ his love; no friends; weird interactions with his family members; he didn’t like my flat butt; talk radio from its inception; no interest in my interests or career; ungenerous; unthoughtful; lied by omission; stingy and grasping.

    I’m a public school teacher and he honestly believes teacher’s unions are the bane of civilization – a position he was generously willing to live with during the years when I was the sole breadwinner and provided health insurance for the whole marriage. He is homophobic despite mostly enjoying gay sex.

    I thought I was the One Who Could Reach Him and boy, howdy did I try. For 20 years. Just like every sucker he encounters (and apparently there were multitudes because, as one of his Craigslist ads noted, he knows how to ‘make it steamy’) due to his chameleon-like ability to become whoever the other person ‘needs.’

    Turns out his weird family interactions were probably due to the fact that he sexually molested his little sister beginning when she was six. Something they failed to mention when we began dating when my daughter was six. I found this out during the divorce. Also his father is arguably a Nazi who blames Jews for everything (and he’s married to the daughter of an SS officer!).

    In the seven years since D-Day/divorce, I have learned a lot (A LOT) about my own low self esteem and the Projects who take advantage of people like me. He was the polar opposite of me the whole time and I didn’t realize it. Just kept trying.

    • Roaring – It’s amazing you survived that. Quite a horror story. It also reminds me that part of the reason I missed red flags is that they are so illogical so I couldn’t wrap my head around him. Bite the hand that feeds them, etc…

    • “Turns out his weird family interactions were probably due to the fact that he sexually molested his little sister beginning when she was six. Something they failed to mention when we began dating when my daughter was six. I found this out during the divorce. Also his father is arguably a Nazi who blames Jews for everything (and he’s married to the daughter of an SS officer!).”

      😱 OMG OMG OMG.

  • Red flag: when friends and family gently try to warn you about your partner before you commit your life, and you make excuses for each example of bad behavior they bring up…

  • I remember all the way back to when we were in college – decades ago – and I noticed that he didn’t return books to the library.
    When you think about it, this is a big deal; it should have pointed me toward his sense of entitlement and disregard for both fellow students and rules in general. He purloined books and then my heart.

  • I feel a deep sense of shame looking back on all of it. But somehow I thought the good outweighed the atrocious. I am nauseous thinking how I could imagine ANY of this was acceptable for even a moment. This monster is very charming and manipulative and I can’t seem to convince the flying monkeys to see any of it.
    -She bragged about being a narcissist;
    -She bragged about her attraction to teenagers as well as her romantic “relationships” with them;
    -She used her mom to extreme degrees. Was unemployed or deeply underemployed despite being able bodied while having her mom pay for all of her necessities like rent and food and her car and everything else. And on top of that, demanded extra spending money from her mom so she could show off to friends and potential lovers;
    -Was physically abusive to her mom;
    -Was physically abusive to her dad and bragged about putting him in the hospital once;
    -Imagines herself as some kind of anti-racist activist because she viciously bullies people online;
    -Brags about being a slut (which more power to anyone who does this but the context here is bragging about being a slut while using sex as a weapon to manipulate, harm, and control numerous others);
    -Brags about being a sex addict;
    -Would consistently cut off contact with me for minor “offenses” or otherwise neglect me;
    -Said she was “just joking” and bully me if I got upset about her verbally abusing me;
    -Bragged about how intellectually superior she is while convincing friends and family that my or another friend’s academic research are her own ideas;
    -Drove recklessly to threaten me into submission;
    -Raged when I questioned her on anything;
    -Lied to anyone and everyone, including my parents, about doing “independent study” when she dropped out of college;
    -Carried around the same Aristotle book as a prop that she would pretend to read in public to feign intelligence. Somehow she never made it past about page 10 in all the years she did this;
    -Talked fondly of Hitler’s methods but said he did it wrong and we needed death camps for bigots;
    -Used the language of consent I taught her as an anti rape activist to make women and teenage girls feel comfortable with her so she could assault them.
    -Had a child she abandoned and manipulated the ex so she didn’t have to pay any child support.

    • Holy smokes! Death camps? WTF. That FW wins for biggest narc asshole IMO
      Get over the shame, though. You were conned. It happens to the best of us.

    • Don’t feel shame.

      I also look back with astonishment at the behaviors I accepted in my life. I truly believe when we know better, we do better.

      I used to think a man showing raving jealousy over me was “hot”. I thought it meant he loved me. Even if he got pushy or threw things around or shouted for hours, stole my keys or blocked me in with his car.

      And, I had a terrible, debilitating fear of abandonment. I would put up with anything if someone would not leave me. Oh but if I could go back in time and rescue that girl that was me- talk some sense in her. When your parents make you feel panicked about love, or even having the basics of the Needs Pyramid- we will eat gigantic shit sandwiches for years.

  • Early on during our first year together he got drunk while we were out at a bar playing pool. When he became a little too boisterous I made the mistake of asking him to lower his voice. He snapped and promptly ditched me at the bar, taking my keys and car and leaving me, with no cell phone, to walk the 8.5 miles home at midnight in the dead of winter on a treacherous, windy road. When I got home (to MY house) I discovered that I had been locked out. I had to break a window to get in.
    Ten years and two supposed emotional affairs later and I find myself driving home today from the gynecologist, having just suffered through the humiliation, angst and pain of a cervical biopsy resulting from two abnormal pap smears with active HPV detected.
    Get out while you can. Believe them when they show you who they are.

    • I’m so sorry, ISpy. Sorry that you endured this mistreatment and sorry about the diagnosis too.

    • Ah , yet another member of the cervical cancer watch club, thanks to a cheater. Two biopsies for me too. So far so good. I hope you stay healthy, IH.

  • I love this thread. So helpful and just what I need because I’m so afraid of making the same mistakes again. For my own ex, let’s see. He did the lying about little things, but maybe the worst was when I called things off for a bit, he stalked me. He would hang out near my work and follow me. Should have been a huge red flag. He also wanted to express affection in ways that seemed more about what other people would think or making a dramatic gesture, than about how I would receive it. He’d do things like run after me when I was with friends to give me a note that he’d written. It seemed sweet except that it was always in front of other people and dramatic in some way and made me vaguely uncomfortable. He was also super vague about his whereabouts. I often didn’t really know where he was or what he was doing, back when we were dating.

  • I certainly regret spackling over the red flags that were present from the very moment my STBX asked me out on a date. At that time, he was SO vague that I didn’t even realize he WAS asking me on a date! I didn’t find out until the night before, and when I learned that I freaked out. I had just sworn off dating for a while after ending an abusive relationship. I should have backed out right there and then and called off that first date that I didn’t even know was a date. My cheater’s abilities to withhold information as a form of control and punishment and to lie by omission are exceptional, and they plague me to this day.

    Other red flags while dating that I wished I had paid attention to:

    Learning early on that he broke up with his previous girlfriend the NIGHT BEFORE our first date. Which means he asked me out on the “date” that I didn’t even know was a date 3 days *before breaking up with his girlfriend. I feel so silly now, that I naively believed his story about that “Our relationship was over for a long time, our break-up the night before first date with you was just a formality.” The reality is that I was shinier new supply for him.

    *Warnings from friends about him and his character, especially from my best friend who at the time had a restraining order on her abusive X. Instead of listening to her warnings of how controlling he was, I let my h slowly alienate me from her.

    *How he attempted to physically take a bag of chips away from me because he thought I had eaten enough. He’s a total control freak, especially when it comes to diet and fitness, and his control got inflicted on me and our kids. 🙁

    *How his “apologies” if I got upset by something hurtful he did were actually NOT apologies. They were more like “I’m sorry if you felt I….”

    Anyone who is thinking of dating again, please listen to your friends’ observations, and watch for signs of control or vague evasiveness. Let them be deal breakers if they’re present.

  • I wanted to add something here…I think initially, I didn’t recognize the red flags of my FW being just low-grade mean (finding fault, criticizing me about little things, making jokes at my expense, etc) as red flags because I hadn’t learned to listen and trust my own feelings. I grew up with parents who weren’t abusive, but would say things like, “why are you crying? You don’t have a reason to cry—stop it right now!” Or would say things like, “You don’t mean that…” or “you don’t feel that way,” and as a young adult (and later, an older adult), I couldn’t trust how I felt, couldn’t trust my emotions.

    Now I have slowly begun to learn how to recognize and validate my own emotions. If I feel bad because something someone has said, that’s not MY fault—I take it seriously now. My feelings matter. If someone’s joke hurts my feelings, or if I feel bad because someone is always finding fault with me, then I know to trust how I feel and honor my feelings.

    It took a lot of therapy!

  • He told me that he had cheated on most of his girlfriends. He choked me when he was drunk and apologized the next day. He said he liked to work as little as possible. He told me he felt entitled to steal from his work places in the UK, one place he worked at his friend was his direct boss. She couldn’t figure out where the money was going and he just lied to her because he deserved it. He would drink and get really mean to my friends. It was like Jekyll and Hyde. He was really focused on his dad’s money and felt his father’s new wife would cheat him out of his inheritance. Those are just a few of the flags I spackled over.

  • Within weeks of meeting (maybe days, not sure) during a short term on-location work project, I saw him looking at me intensely. I’d already noticed him and had also been checking him out from a distance. But there was that one time he was looking at me from the other side of the small room and the thought flashed through my head: If I don’t know better, I’d think he was a stalker. Now…he wasn’t a stalker (that I know of?), but he was very love bomb-y and very intense very quickly. I, unfortunately, just thought that was what love was like since it was my first time to fall in love. But the intensity in his eyes triggered a red flag that flitted briefly through my mind before I dismissed it.

    A bigger red flag I missed: I should have realized that the endings of all his relationships were monkey branching. There was always the person he just met and then he left the person he was with. I thought it was immaturity. NOPE. It was a life pattern. But after he left me (his longest relationship and only marriage), I think everyone in his life realized it was indeed a pattern and not just immaturity or the particular circumstances.

    Another: The lack of remorse he had when he told me about something illegal he’d once done. I should have realized the widespread effect his “rules don’t apply to me” worldview would have on EVERYTHING.

    After we were married, there were some other red flags, but we were married then. “Joking” with me repeatedly about things I said I was insecure about. Telling me he did one thing I didn’t like because he was “trying to tame” me. More than once physically holding my arm in a “joking” way I’d said I needed to pee after the end of a movie, preventing me from leaving the room to go to the bathroom. Etc.

    • “A bigger red flag I missed: I should have realized that the endings of all his relationships were monkey branching. There was always the person he just met and then he left the person he was with. I thought it was immaturity. NOPE. It was a life pattern. But after he left me (his longest relationship and only marriage), I think everyone in his life realized it was indeed a pattern and not just immaturity or the particular circumstances.”


  • After 4 years of fighting and getting back together, it was finally OVER. My heart was breaking, but I was slowly moving on, and had started seeing someone new. FW showed up begging to reconcile. Of course I took him back. For about a week we were very happy and then suddenly he started acting very strange. I got him to go to a waterpark with me one day (we had bought season tickets) and he was totally unfun. As soon as we got home he said he had to leave. I said, “I know you don’t feel the same about me anymore,” and he admitted that was true. And yet a week later he invited me to a party at his house. Where he totally ignored me. When we went to bed and I asked him for sex, he said he wasn’t a machine (we had always been crazy in bed). I was mystified, but I really believed it was all my fault. And of course he just had to break up my new friendship. I called everyone we knew trying to find out what happened and finally one nice girl told me he was with someone else, that the other girl had broken up with him before we got back together and now was back in the picture. I was so young. Looking back I don’t know how I couldn’t have seen it.

  • Should have left when I got a mystery std in our first year of marriage. I even blocked the memory…therapist says trauma causes the memory blockage…memories are starting to come back…and when he used the children to make “fun of me” to the point of tears and wanting to die. Why didn’t I leave? So emotionally bruised I still do not believe I can take care of myself. The loss of my second brain/ gut feeling because of the abuse. I was told so often that I needed therapy that I believed it even when the therapist said I didn’t…so why didn’t I leave??? Fear. Why don’t we leave when we are constantly abused, told we are in need of professional help, laughed at and made fun of to the truly harmful point. Why did I lie to myself and stay? I got great birthday presents and Christmas presents…stuff like a package of post-it notes or a package of pencils. Taking 5 hours to get a “haircut” I knew that wasn’t right and the excuses made no sense…until he left and I figured it out…all his lovers were from craigslist…takes a whole lot to be blinder and dumber than me. Also he made sure I had no friends by telling me they were awful…just before he left he was working on separating me from my family. I don’t therapist does. The kids knew when he brought his lover to Thanksgiving dinner…me? How did I miss it!!!!

    • GG, that is all so horrific. What a vile man. You mean he told your kids about his lover? WTAF?
      Using your own kids to abuse you to the point of being suicidal! OMG. That’s one of your worst things I’ve ever heard.

  • I had to buy my own engagement ring. For years, he drank until he passed out. He lied all the time, about little things. He would slam shut his lap top when I entered the room. He started working out more. He didn’t want to join me on vacation. He got very angry if I had to pee on long road trips. All this time, he would tell me he loved me. I should have looked at his actions, not his words. Words are cheap.

  • This appears to be a popular topic! Here’s my contribution.

    We’d been dating for about a year when we decided to take a vacation together. Unbeknownst to me, we were traveling to a city where one of his former GFs lived. When we got there, he told me he was going to “take a night off” to go see her. I was alternately crushed and infuriated, and raised such hell that he ended up not going, but it ruined my vacation.

    Lord, how I wish I’d run.

    • Violet, this is so horrible. One needs to be soulless to do this. My ex- h was not any different. He was lying non-stop and acting weird when he decided that he was entitled to live a double life. But I trusted him so much that I couldn’t have imagined the cruelty of his intentions. We took a trip to Asia and he left the hotel room abruptly to go to a bar. Drinking was all he wanted to do wherever we went. I was taking a shower and planned to join him, and he was sending me texts saying “you should be quick, I am too popular here”. A girl was chatting with him at the bar and he was trying to make me jealous with constant texts.
      He was already living a double life. I knew nothing but I was scared and worried because of his recent weird behavior. He knew that I was confused. But he even tried harder to make me more scared. No one with a decent soul would do this to another human being.

    • I totally get this one. It’s a bit like when FW and I went on overseas holidays and I discovered that he was buying gifts for her and hiding or disguising the reason for buying (buying for his daughters), and making calls to her in secret while we were away. He always lied. I feel the anxiety as I write about this…

  • I forgot to add the years of abnormal pap smear…had no idea why I didn’t as getting them….why didn’t the Dr. say more… surely the doctor knew. I was clueless

  • There were several, but I will just add these:

    He lived to be the center of attention and told me many times that he gets upset if the attention is not on him. At the time it looked really fun and was not a red flag. He was the story teller and I was not. In the end, I learned to rush my sentences and keep them short so that he does not cut me in the middle of my sentence.

    He chose not to deal with his family problems and I was left worrying for his family and their deteriorating relationship for years.

  • Too many red flags to mention for both FWs that I’ve had the displeasure of knowing (one a boyfriend, the other an ex-husband). But I’ll mention the very first one for each of them. It all seems so obvious in retrospect…
    FW #1: WAY too close to his ex-GF. She was a single mother (her daughter wasn’t FW’s – she was the result of a ONS long before she’d met FW) and constantly in need of help with the most trivial household tasks. You’d think that a grown woman could figure out how to, for example, defrost a freezer or change a thermostat without having to call her supposed “ex” to handle stuff like that. Funny how these helpful trips lasted for hours, usually ending after I’d already gone to bed. The odd thing was that ex-GF lived in a carriage house on the property of a wealthy couple who had plenty of household help to assist her with whatever she wanted done.
    FW #2: Took me to a work event and left me standing in the midst of total strangers while he schmoozed with everyone else in sight – didn’t even introduce me to anyone and pretended that he’d come to the event by himself. When he came back into the room, he continued to ignore me while chatting away with his friends, who also showed no interest in talking to me. I’d managed to strike up a couple of conversations in the interim, but he maneuvered those people away from me so that I was again left standing alone. [Now that I think of it, FW #1 did something similar once or twice too, but it was much later in the relationship.]

    • When needing help to change a 💡 is a euphemism for something else.

    • That reminds me of another red flag, Sleepyhead: Not introducing your partner to people. My ex would often stand in front of me and never say who I was or invite me into the conversation, as if I didn’t exist. I don’t think he was ashamed of me, I genuinely think he was just that self important and oblivious.

  • I wonder how many chumps were married when they were on the young side.

    I was 23 when I got married. IMO, I was too young and more prone to missing red flags.

    In addition to marrying relatively young, we got engaged after only 9 months of dating.🤦🏻‍♀️

    • Well, I moved in with FW at 23, which, in retrospect, was too young.
      I had also been in an abusive relationship previously. It made FW seem better than he was.

      Yeah, nine months is probably too soon to get engaged. We moved in together after only six months, which was way too soon.

    • I was married at age 18.9. But it was a pretty normal thing back in those days.

      Also, most of the folks we knew who married at the same time have had lifetime marriages. I am sure not perfect marriages, as no one does, but they endured.

  • Did anyone’s FW have a relationship with their family that seemed too close or too adoring? FW seemed to be the night in shining amour in his Foo, and his young adult children seemed to constantly be gushing over him.

    • Zip, this is exactly what I experienced. I had a career that helped me stand on my feet, and had some qualifications that people who knew me appreciated. But these were unimportant. His parents adored everything he did. They liked me too, but still he was too great for anyone to deserve him. His parents said they lived for him and the other brothers had to watch the parents speaking his praises at all times.

      • Yes, the mother was always talking about how amazing he was, she never said much about her other kid. Parents and sibling also got him to pay for things over the years, like he was the father in the family, even though he had a father.
        I’ve just truly never seen anybody adored so much in my life, he could do no wrong. I just wonder if this is part of the whole thing….
        That would be a red flag for me now, meeting somebody who was worshipped by his family.

    • Yes Zip, FW was definitely the knight in shining armor to his dysfunctional family. They are always after him for favors. Most of them are so fucked up they can’t fo much of anything. He was the only one of them to go on to higher education and one of a few who even have a job. They use him and he couldn’t see it, any more than he could see OW was using him. He only thinks they are adoring. In reality they don’t care much about him. They’re a bunch of cluster Bs IMO.

      In retrospect, the fact that they were stereotypical trailer trashy should have alarmed me. I was determined not to be what I thought was classist, as I grew up upper middle class. The thing was that the problem was not their class, it was that they were disordered. I had trouble sorting my feelings about them out and didn’t want to be a bigot. OW grew up in a similar family and that was part of their fakeass bond.

      • Ugh…
        It was so weird for me seeing his parents expect him to pay for things that they organized. It just seemed like there was a lot of manipulation, like it was made to seem like it was his idea, but you could just tell the expectation was there.

        • He may have been groomed accept that by his family, Zip. They sound like a bunch of grifters like my FW’s family. No wonder these cheaters turned out to be so dishonest.

          • Oh his family was Lovely, perfect just like him! Superficial as shit it turns out. Constantly complimenting me. Over the top, happy, delightful…..then at Dday – nothing. Quickly embraced OW!

    • His mom worships the ground he walks on. It’s a huge factor in why he is who he is. So entitled and selfish.

    • There’s a word for it: enmeshment.

      I was HORRIFIED when one fuckwit told me about his relationship with his mother because it was obviously incest, but he truly didn’t see it and was baffled by my reaction, which freaked me out even more. Thank God he married someone else, but I felt horrible for his new wife.

      There was a disturbing video from the wedding party of him, his mom, and his new bride doing this weird three-way dance together.

      Even if you didn’t know the backstory, it was disturbing and the bride looked like she wanted to run away.

  • My hamster died this morning. She was the last pet my STBXH bought together with me before D day. After the purchase I was having so much fun with Peanut that STBXH blurted out,hey I’m jealous of that hamster! She gets more attention than me! Finding out later he was doing a coworker and others showed the extent of blame shifting! My red flags were all over-the- place for at least 20 of our 32 years married. From a starter emotional affair which I addressed but then let slide. Being inappropriate with my daughter and talking to her about our marriage issues like she was an adult. Flirting with woman at church and everywhere,late nights at work, taking off his wedding band when he was angry at me,throwing my sexy underware in the trash because I never did anything with them anyway. My therapist told me to lock him out or leave immediately. That’s how powerful my spackle was. This looked similar to my parents with a raging dad and quiet mom. They were married 55 years. Crazy was normal. RIP Peanut🐹 you trusted and loved me more than the man who promised me to. I am grateful for the joy you gave me for 18vsweet months. Will go through the divorce without your noise all night! But I’ll miss you more. ❤️

    • 😔 I’m sorry about Peanut, 2x.

      My FW said he was jealous of our dogs. They cheat, yet they think they’re entitled to be jealous of our affection for pets. 🤡

      I’m imagining your cheater telling people he had to cheat because of a hamster. Fuckwits are so freaky that even that would seem reasonable to them.

  • Oh also never saying thank you, your welcomed, please and I’m sorry. These are all redflags for someone who feels entitled to you and everyone else. Ifi sang in church, played the organ..he never mentioned anything i did publically. Never, as if he was always diminished by anything I accomplished. But i heard he bragged at work about me as if he was the reason for who i was. Also he was intimately coercive so that if I ever said NO, he took to the couch and did not take to me until I APOLIGIZED. Red red flag.

  • To keep it brief I’ll only list four that directly played into his cheating.

    The first two weeks we were dating, FW blew me off to go out with friends. He pretended not to know we had a date. He brazenly called me to say he was going out, not mentioning the fact that he was breaking our plans. I was so nonplussed at the time that I said nothing. Later, when I asked him about it, he pretended he didn’t think our plans were firm, so he felt no need to announce that he was breaking them. At the time I believed him. This was an early lie which I should have caught. He didn’t seem like a liar at all, or the kind of person who would unapologetically blow me off. Everybody thought he was a good, upstanding guy.

    His mother. He was so resentful of her. She is BPD, a born again Christian who demanded he adopt her views. She made my life hell in the early years. She was obviously jealous of me, which I now know is a deadly sign. At the time I dismissed it as one-sided. It came out after Dday that she had been emotionally incestuous with him. Now that I’m not around, she has him back, sort of playing the role of husband, even going as far as having power of attorney over her finances, which she simply cannot manage. Her late husband had to manage everything because she is a spendaholic. It played into his cheating because OW looked like his mother and her personality was a mix of his crazy mother and witholding father. Stupid FW thought he could salve his FOO wounds by making her love him. It should have been obvious she was just using him for attention and slavish devotion, as she didn’t hide her agenda, but FW was determined that she must love him. For a time, after Dday, I would snicker to myself about how much it must have crushed him when he found out she did not. It was not very mature of me, but fuck it. He crushed me far more.

    The obsession with sex, and the lack of emotional intimacy during. Believe it or not, I didn’t know he was obsessed with porn for the more than 30 years we were together. He hid it well. It came to a head with the rise of internet porn. By 2008 he was using almost daily and by 2013 it was twice a day. He got more entitled, more demanding, wanted to do gross stuff, and his sexual functioning was suffering. I didn’t know that porn addiction caused this.

    The biggest sign of all was my feeling that he was too good to be true in the first six months we were dating. I dismissed it as the byproduct of lack of trust due to a previous toxic relationship, but I now know it was my good instincts spotting the fakery.

  • Wait! I get one more because I had 2 disasters. My first XH watched a ball game during my labor, only coming over for the actual delivery. My 6 year old son brought me wet wash clothes for my face and stayed next to me until he had to leave per the nurses. He cried out in the hallway…I want to see my new sister…!!!! Cried loud. His dad reluctantly moved to my side to cut the cord ( I had a heroic VBAC after my first baby was a Csec so I was proud). He cut the cord and then said… I like the name Ann, spell it Ann..well I grew up since second grade with this man and he could never spell so why the sudden quiz on the name Ann?. I was suspicious so when the medical records lady came up I said, make it ANNE. Was he furious when he saw the spelling. You guessed it, that was his APs name. It is a sad S*sandwich to tell you that my daughter is 34 now and loves the AP/W and is naming her new son after her cheating dad. It is forever. But still, her dad was abusive, threatening and a bully. I still could not have lived with him No matter what. But that is my story.

    • What kind of douche has his daughter named after an affair partner. So sorry that happened to you.

  • Weirdly, I don’t remember many red flags when we were dating. I’m not even super sure I was love bombed. But the main thing is how easily he lied. I used to call him the King of White Lies as a joke. I don’t know why I didn’t take it more seriously (dumb and in love in my mid 20’s). I remember at one point, he gave me access to his hotmail account and I read a couple emails of his where I realized he was telling some little fibs here and there. The big one came after we were enagaged when we were applying for our mortgage and I found out he was in school loan debt by 100K, not the 20K he had told me. I don’t know WHY I didn’t make a big deal of that except I took it as he was embarrassed by his debt (I had gone to college on scholarships and grants) and that we were in love and would pay it off together. And sadly, we did, just shortly before he decided a decade later to leave for his young, married OW.

  • If someone tells you they are nice, or good, or faithful – be very cautious. Good people don’t worry about being good, they just go about their business being kind, helping others, supporting the sick/weak, paying their bills, raising their kids, walking the dogs, being faithful, and getting on with the business of making the world a little brighter.

    You know who needs a gold star for doing the bare minimum of human decency? Narcissists.

    • So true, 2nd Gen. That’s typical covert narc stuff, insisting they are good and feeling victimized because they don’t get credit for doing the bare minimum. My FW expected oodles of credit just for having a damn job. He resented me because I didn’t show enough “appreciatelion” for that and for his other supposed sterling qualities. He surely still thinks he’s an unappreciated nice guy who’s always finishing last. After Dday I started sneeringly asking him if he wanted a parade when he whined about lack of appreciation. It made him furious. He would try to prove he was a splendid person by saying; “Do you know how many people I’ve helped?!” He meant advising underlings at work, which was like, his job.🙄 Poor widdle FW.

  • When I was in college, a behaviorism professor suggested creating a database for behaviors so people could find out if some of their secret “weird” but otherwise harmless personal behaviors were actually weird at all or, in fact, quite common. He though it might relieve that “Am I the only one?” kind of social isolation. It would be great if someone would do the same for red flags. People use a database find out whether their FW’s weirder warning flares were actually that unusual and the uninitiated could cross-check partners’ behavior. FW in my case gave off a few flares but I had so much trouble categorizing them that I was left scratching my head and didn’t know how to react.

    For one, right after I got engaged, the swinger screenwriter son of my parents’ friends once told me to watch out for men who cry too much or have strong opinions about women’s makeup. He said normal men might get emotional here and there but don’t go on frequent operatic jags and that regular Joes are usually mystified by feminine grooming and won’t have much to say about it. This spooked me because I hadn’t told the family friend that FW cried a lot and nagged me for wearing lipstick. It also made me feel defensive and I considered the source: a single, 36 year old dude who still threw pool parties like it was 1972. What did he know about it? But from the mouths of babes and Beverly Hills playboys…

    Another weird little red flag was mirroring Cluster B women. Hard to explain this to anyone who hasn’t experienced it but there’s a particular breed who not-so-covertly flirt by suddenly shifting into a blushing, enthused, faux-ingenue mode, sort of like, “I’m so widdle and innothent I couldn’t pothibwy be fwirting! But come pway in my thandbox and if our cwothes faww off, whoopthie!” The conversation might be completely banal– directions to the x-ray department or commuting in holiday traffic. But, like pulling a string on an Elmo doll, FW– who typically hated public displays and would go out of his way to avoid greeting neighbors– would suddenly be triggered into mirroring the same embarrassing, wide-eyed, breathy ersatz-ingenue vibe and excitedly discuss, er, speed traps or the price of Starbucks granola. Faux-twee age-regression seemed to be a kind of Cluster B secret signal, how they identify each other in crowds.

    WTF on so many levels. Sexual vibes + age regression = pedo tendencies??? It didn’t happen often and, because the faux-twee brigade were never particularly attractive, it made it harder to accuse FW of flirting in front of me. I honestly don’t think he wanted to have sex with the mousy 56 year old medical liaison for my obstetrician. But if a gay guy attempted the same thing, FW would stiffen up like a Victorian barrister.

    I also have trouble explaining what antics like this triggered in me. I’m a pretty effusive person but watching some fake, exaggerated, sleazy display of of “bubbly” behavior made me shut down and go instantly flat, cold and sober. It was like I was witnessing some kind of Pickme dance warm up session and getting a creepy feeling that FW secretly demanded women act like caffeinated strippers. No surprise that the office whistleblower who spilled the beans about FW’s affair described the AP as exactly this type. The whistleblower said the AP was typically officious and gruff with peers but would go manically boneless, breathy and bubbly like a three year old the minute anyone with status or expensive shoes walked by her desk. Bleah.

    I’m sure I’m not the only chump in history who saw similar red flags but I had no reference for any of it at the time. We really need a database.

    • The problem is otherwise benign behaviour, or any behaviour really, can be interpreted in a sinister way. A lot of decent people mask, but yeah, I get what you mean by the mirror. Lack of individuation or something. Freaks.

      • Yes! Lack of individuation, like a Cluster B mind-meld. Shudder. Age regression in certain personality disorders can apparently be involuntary or voluntary and seems to be adaptive in some way as the following first-person account describes it: This woman describes the behavior as a fear and fawning response. I’ve also seen it done in a calculated way but just because something is done cynically for an agenda doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not rooted in compulsion.

        • My wife/children only exist in relation to/through me seems to inevitably come up as part of psychological profile of perps in domestic homicides. No wonder it hits us in the gut.
          And as for the fawning, that slimy voice makes me want to gag. Big red flag for disordered people. Coupled with “you need learn to be nice” when you can no longer be controlled.
          Need to stop typing now as my head has started spinning uncontrollably whilst vomit shoots from my mouth.

    • “have strong opinions about women’s makeup. ”

      That one resinates. My fw from the time we married hated make up. He didn’t mention it before we married, and I wore make up. It was the 60’s, so dark eyeliner and mascara. I didn’t wear much else as I had pretty good skin.

      Anyway, he would complain if I put it on too heavy. He didn’t want me to wear it at all, but I said no, I will lighten up, but a little makes me feel better.

      And here is the thing, about a month before I picked up on the cheating vibe, we were sitting in a restaurant, and he mentioned that “whore” knows he hates make up. Whore was his direct report, so mentioning her would not be unusual; but I must have picked up on something because I said, it is none of your business what whore wears. He just shrugged and said, she knows I hate it. Can someone say blazing afire red flag.
      I think in hindsight because of that and a couple other things, he was trying to out himself to me so I would kick him out.

      He was still hiding it from his bosses, I think the plan was for me to kick him out, and then him and whore to suddenly become close. Then he could maneuver her into another job and voila, he is the sad sausage who got dumped and sanctified whore gets to come out of the alley.

      • My ex wore ratty Teva sandals, cargo shorts and a dirty pullover for pretty much all occasions. Pretty much zero fashion sense. Suddenly he is talking about a coworker’s amazing color sense and quirky fashion choices and “how well we would get along if we met”. Uh huh.

        Time to check the phone logs.

    • “He said normal men might get emotional here and there but don’t go on frequent operatic jags and that regular Joes are usually mystified by feminine grooming and won’t have much to say about it. This spooked me because I hadn’t told the family friend that FW cried a lot and nagged me for wearing lipstick.”

      Nagging you about it is a whole different thing from just having a personal distaste for a too obviously made up face, which a lot of men (and women, myself included) do have. In my case, it’s a dislike for artifice in general and for sexist double standards about appearance that encourage women to plaster themselves with toxic goop on the daily. I’ll wear a little subtle makeup only on special occasions, as a sort of armor, since I have social anxiety, but that’s it. Another problem with makeup is that with regular use it ruins your skin, therefore you need to keep wearing it to hide that. At any rate, I mind my own business and don’t try to control what others do with their own faces. It sounds like your FW was just using the makeup thing as an excuse to be controlling. I’m betting the grotesque, twee, female impersonating OW wore it, proving he is just fine with it.
      There’s nothing wrong with a man preferring a natural look, as long as he doesn’t demand you go along with his wishes. That’s the problem, not his taste.

      Other common excuses to be controlling are the length of your hair and how you dress.

      Re; frequent crying jags, I’m wary of both men and women who do that. My first ex was like that. He had BPD. I’d make an exception those who have been through significant trauma, though.

  • I don’t see any red flags looking back -it was only after I began to find the truth that he began doing “red flag” things. Still took me 5 years before I finally said “I’ve had enough. I deserve better.” Sometimes you just have to go in the pool to find out how deep it is. I’m trying to make those wasted years not.

  • Over the years seeing the text exchanges with her friends about how she hated me was a pretty big red flag…I made a horrible choice to think that it was normal for a spouse to talk horribly about their partner even though it was something I would never consider doing. Then finding out recently she was having an affair or two or three was another red flag…lol. she hated me the entire marriage, I just chose not to believe it.

    yet she is still trying to reconcile with me.

    its mind boggling.

    • so sorry you went through that. I suspect you provided something she needed.

      I honestly think if someone had not dropped a dime on my ex, he would have stayed with me another year, I actually think knowing what I found out after that was the plan. To slowly get me to dump him, so he could sanctify the whore.

      But alas a fellow employee evidently got ticked when whore got a nice raise. Given that fw was the one who went to the city counsel and petitioned for a raise for her, well the rest is history.

    • Oh an my value to him was the image of dedicated family man, as I worked my hiney off for him in the community and in politics to help him get his dream job.

      As soon as he landed it, he started the discard phase. Of course I only figured it out in hindsight. It became clearly obvious to everyone, consequently he crashed and burned. Though it took about a year-ish for the administration to deal with him and avoid a lawsuit from whore.

  • Good question. In no particular order:

    • New sexy underwear
    • Suddenly started shaving down there after more than a decade together.
    • Endless weeks abroad on business.
    • Secret cosmetic surgery (she told me she kept bumping her face!)
    • Completely different taste in music.
    • Completely different taste in clothing.
    • Unexplained bruises on body.
    • New inventive ways of having sex.
    • Endlessly looking at phone.
    • Endlessly looking at social media.
    • Neglecting our daughter (and myself)
    • Completely different set of (much younger) friends.

    I think I could probably go on forever so I’ll stop there.

  • Shoplifting. I bawled her out about doing that. I should have interpreted it as basic dishonesty. If they can’t be trusted with small things, they can’t be trusted with big things. The irony is that once you catch them cheating, they’ll never trust you again.

    • My ex took things from work. When we first met back in college we worked at a country club that had two restaurants. One day at his mother’s house (my future mil) I noticed a commercial grade tablecloth on the kitchen table and mentioned it was just like the ones at work. FW said the restaurant was getting rid of them so he took some. Mind you the restaurant used a laundry service. Never occurred that he lied. When we moved in together a few months before the wedding I pointed out that he had some restaurant quality utensils. Same thing – restaurant was getting rid of them.
      Fast forward when company he worked for was consolidating operations, items appeared at home: tools, cleaning chemicals, office equipment, furniture, etc. Was told they were going to be thrown out. Once again I didn’t question it.
      But now I look back & think those were the red flags of entitlement.

  • On our 1st date, this individual (paramedic) pointed out the veins on the back of my arms and how butterfly needles would be appropriate on the top of my hand because my veins are mostly hidden. Caring professions attract them, I keep finding out. 15 years later, I almost missed the death threat about how some paramedic drugs are normal to most people and that the correct injection site could mean that nobody knows how you died.

    Was bright enough to override the feels and change the locks. I am pretty sure it saved my life.

    • Yike FT!

      I shudder to remember the hidden threats I missed. Early on, we were discussing some sad scenes in a movie about a couple breaking. He described how much this formerly loving couple loathed each other. He was imagining that because the movie didn’t show that. I thought it odd how he was seeing that when it wasn’t the artists intention. Later I realized what that conversation meant. He couldn’t imagine “his woman” leaving him without loathing & wanting to destroy her.

  • Run from the Fence Peeker. That is what I call them. Always looking over the fence.

    On the look out for something shiner, bigger, better. Never being satisfied with what they have. It is more than FOMO, but that’s start.

    He gets a new car, and 7 months later, he wants a better car. We re-did the house and he is back on Zillow looking at other houses. We fix homemade pizza with the new pizza oven and he now wants to start making goat milk ice cream, with all the expensive accroutements. Guess who paid?

    These people are the Hungry Ghosts in Buddhism. No one can fix them. Shovel stacks of cash and compliments and trips and Hermes cologne in their yawning maw and they are hungry again next Friday.

    Now, I live in a 732 square foot house (PAID FOR!!!) with a 13 year old car (PAID FOR!!!) and use the library and have not eaten out in 6 months other than convenience on a trip. I have 6 dogs and his parrot- all these animals he acquired and lost interest in them within 3 weeks. It’s not their fault a Piece of Shit Inbred CockSucker snatched them up. Mr. “I never crack a book and hate PBS but I know it all” mother fucker.

    I am in almost paradise.

    • Yes, yes, YES! I couldn’t agree more. But I also see this in retrospect, I couldn’t connect the dots before. He was never satisfied with ANYTHING. Everything had to be the BEST (well in the reasonable price range we could afford at the time, but still). Even just clothes, he would never wear anything “regular”, like stuff from h&m or zara, it always had to be branded and expensive. God, it was hard to buy a present for this guy. This is also a typical narcissistic trait. Always trying to have the best/most expensive of everything, to stand out, to validate themselves via material things, skills etc. OF COURSE it would be the same with women and affairs. Jesus, how could I now see/understand that? These people are a f**king black hole of looking for external validation.

  • In hindsight? So many.

    -So many sob stories where he was the victim

    -So many stories about all the women who wanted him

    -He had a girlfriend when we met, and he complained about her to me (and later asked my advice on whether he should break up with her). According to him, she was the one causing all the problems. (All the things he said about her, he later said about me.)

    -He wanted to move super fast after they broke up and he asked me out. I was uncomfortable with that. But I finally gave in. Then after we started dating, he wanted to get married within a few months. (We waited 2 1/2 years.)

    -Financially unstable, with a pile of unopened bills from creditors that he didn’t know what to do with (I got it all cleared within a year).

    -Once we started dating, he sometimes “pout” and refused to speak to me.

    -He didn’t get along with his family.

    -He pressured me to dress the way he wanted.

    -On our honeymoon, he got angry because I wanted to sightsee. I was supposed to give him all my attention (never mind we spent an entire day sightseeing the things HE wanted to see).

    -He started blaming me for things that went wrong right from the start.

    -Once our son was born, be was jealous that I paid more attention to the baby than him. He also started becoming very critical of my weight. I had a birth injury that caused pain during sex, and he told me I was exaggerating and it was all in my head.

    -He badmouthed my family and friends, and I gradually stopped seeing them as much.

    -He was an aggressive driver and got in a lot of accidents and got a lot of speeding tickets. (Later he did things that deliberately scared me and got angry if I let my fear show.)

    -He ridiculed my hobbies and interests.

    -He didn’t take care of me when I was dangerously ill. He didn’t help with housework or child care. Instead he made sure I knew how much he resented that I couldn’t work. He called me a dead weight, lazy, worthless, etc.

    -He drank a LOT.

    -He had lots of friends, but had trouble keeping them. He changed his friend group completely every few years.

    -He talked shit about everyone.

    Once the affair started

    —He constantly gaslit me, saying I was crazy, jealous, reading too much into things, didn’t want him to have friends, etc.

    -He got angry at the slightest thing, even if it was something that I’d been doing for years, so he could have an excuse to leave the house.

    -He compared me unfavorably with OW.

    -He’d take pictures of her and her kids, but didn’t take pictures of me with our kid. I have very few photos of me with my son during those years.

    -He complimented, encouraged, and helped her, and criticized, insulting, and ignored me.

    -He started taking his phone EVERYWHERE (even the bathroom).

    -He became more and more abusive, going from mental/emotional to verbal to physical.

    -He got angry if I asked questions.

    I should have seen all these things. But I was quite naive when I met him. I’d been raised very, very conservative and religious, hadn’t dated before (even though I was 25), and was genuinely unaware that there were people who could lie with total sincerity. I’d always been “the weird kid” (hey, hey, turns out I’m autistic) and was used to being bullied and criticized and laughed at. When FW seemed genuinely interested in getting to know me and in what I had to say, I fell pretty hard. He mirrored my interests really well and I thought I’d finally met someone who “got” me (and of course he said the same about me). It seemed like a fairy tale. I was unaware he was slowly pushing my boundaries.

    He later took all those confidences I’d shared (my insecurities) and turned them against me.

    I suppose he used much the same approach with OW.

    • I could’ve written so much of this comment. The disordered really are all stamped from the same mold, aren’t they?

      Sob stories are my #1 red flag. I know now that there’s something pathologically wrong with people who think they’re always the victim. Healthy people want to be seen as competent. Predators seek our pity.

  • May be a strange red flag, but mine was how we never had an argument the 3 years we dated. In fact, our first argument came when were married a year. Four years in perfect unison seemed too good. Now I understand he is conflict avoidant. He doesn’t say boo…just harbors resentment and detaches. Looking back I can now identify that something was already disconnected by the time our first child was born. As long as I kept validating him, he was good. When real adulting kicked in and he couldn’t be all my centre, some switch went off. I also realize I projected more onto him than he really was. He liked how I saw him and tried to reflect that, but that wasn’t sustainable long-term.

    My therapist pointed out that what attracted me to him was that he was so “nice” and not explosive like my father was. Now, I know that it was strange to not argue. There was no way to know if we had healthy conflict styles. Well, his conflict style was to watch porn, then engage with other women the last few years of the marriage.

    He left to be with the “love of his life” with whom he can “finally be his real self” with someone who “is fun and not so strong.” Like that isn’t the most obvious red flag. LOL.

    • Ditto to he was always A OK, to everything….just an easy going guy! No strong opinion. It was soooooo easy!

      • Yeah, most things he was unusually agreeable to. I thought that was a great perk of the relationship until I realized after many D days, he was throwing me dog bones to relieve some transient guilt that popped up every so often.

  • In retrospect, I never had a real explanation for why his first wife left him. I met him several year later when he seemed to be thriving as a co-parent of a young school aged daughter. His only previous intimate relationship seemed to have been with his good friend’s girlfriend. But, hey, it was the 70’s.

    His friends and family lauded his class clown years and treasured role as storyteller (and center of attention).

    Early in our relationship, I was babysitting his daughter while his band played every weekend. We never were able to have children of our own.

    The OW is the widow of another best friend. I thought he was visiting a sick friend.

  • Beware of FWs and their relationships with work colleagues (try to pick up on how often, and ‘how’ they talk about them). FW was the boss and hired woman who became wife number 1, cheated on wife number 1 with soon to be wife number 2 (also from his workplace), wife number 3 (me) not from his workplace, but then he cheated on me with his work colleague who is current partner. Also be wary when FWs describe all past partners as being ‘psycho’.

    • I very briefly (thank God, and this blog) dated a man who called his two ex-wives Axe #1 and Axe #2. The “bitches be crazy” narrative. One of several flapping 🚩

    • I think a lot of these guys are essentially lazy. They go for who is close. My FW’s girlfriend before me was the ex of one of his friends, and they moved in together to share rent and be roomates but started having sex. I was his coworker. Then he cheated on me with his coworker at another job. None of these relationships involved going very far and were convenient for him. Had he lived, I’m sure he would have found another coworker to hook up with, or someone from the charity he worked for, or someone from the film community he was involved with. FW also described the girl before me as psycho (and I believed him at first because she sure seemed crazy; I now am pretty sure it was because he was lying to her and stringing her along contrary to what he told me, and she was “stalking” us because he hadn’t made a clean break with her like he claimed). Then he called me crazy. After OW left, he called her crazy too. My son (age 8 or 9 at the time) said something about “all women are crazy” and that OW had gone away for awhile because “there’s something wrong with her brain”.

      Somehow FW never connected the dots that the women were only “crazy” after he abused them.

  • I think it’s not so much what to look out for—there could be ten thousand things listed and your FW could have the thousand-and-one-th thing. I think it’s a matter of looking INward toward that no-matter-how-minor uh-oh feeling we get when something is…wrong. Or just icky. Or doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t matter how many people (friends, family, flying monkeys, etc.) try to tell us we are being ridiculous or making a mountain out of a molehill or my personal favorite ‘too sensitive’, we need to amplify our attention toward anything that gives us ‘uh-oh’ feeling and trust it. It is our best friend.

  • Affairs with married women 🚩16+ year age gaps (he only dates much younger) 🚩TWO former wives walked out w/safety plans when they’d each had multiple very young kids (he abused/affaires during pregnancies then discarded once he’d used them to have kids) 🚩”Good Dad” persona, enmeshed with wifey eldest daughter 🚩Different daughter is a psychopath 🚩7-figure earner corporate asshole 🚩Current supply roster includes a naive, traumatized trust fund woman of size who can’t hold down a job and a psycho divorce lawyer flying monkey/sugar baby 🚩 Brags on social media about getting fired 🚩Complains on social media how expensive kids are despite being a multi-millionaire many times over 🚩His mom secretly stole his identity as a teen and destroyed his credit 🚩Fake Christian 🚩Opens with sad sausage tales of woe…

  • Love bombing, being sweetly super controlling, and the true inability to take “no” for an answer. When we met I had very little knowledge of narcissism or how it displayed itself, so the red flags were all waving but I didn’t recognize them as red. You have to understand that if something needs addressing, I am fully capable of addressing it, in clear language, without aggression. If I told him something didn’t sit right with me or I didn’t like the idea or that I felt my opinions were being ignored…he would launch into a smooth and ‘loving’ dance of how everything he did was for me and he loved me so much blah blah blah. By ignoring the biggest red flag of all — his complete inability to change his mind on actions, purchases, direction, etc — I was subjected to his decisions ruining every single occasion that should have been joyful, like wedding and births of children.
    It was all there. Red flags swirling and crimson. The ones I caught I hurriedly shackled over.
    I wish I had followed my absolute gut instinct upon first meeting him: I was unimpressed, didn’t find him particularly attractive, and was actually a bit creeped out by his mannerisms. But he was kind and earnest and…
    Love bombing made me blind.

  • My ex and I had a premarital counseling session with a minister who asked what we would do if the other was unfaithful. She said she would forgive me. I said it was a dealbreaker and I would get divorced. Her response bothered me for years until I found out she was a cheater and confirmed my fears about her lack of commitment. You have to pay attention to red flags.