Dating Street Smarts: How to Spot Emotional Predators and Con Artists
The dating world is full of predators who will take you for quite a ride if you’re not wise to them. Many men feel like they were sold a bill of goods or “suckered” by their respective spouses, partners or exes and, to a certain extent, they’re right. However, like most victims of a scam, they’ve been willing targets.
A scam artist and/or emotional predator can easily identify a potential mark in the crowd. Bullies, narcissists, borderlines, histrionics and sociopaths like easy targets. They go after people who are kind, generous, trusting, eager to please, self-reflective, competent, talented or “gifted” in some way and, most importantly, people who have a desire to cooperate or work things out and a non-confrontational personal style (Namie, 2003).
These are wonderful qualities, which make you a great catch—especially for an emotional predator (e.g., borderlines, narcissists, histrionics, sociopaths and their variants) because it makes you easier to steamroll. This means you have to learn to be more discerning and develop dating street smarts when it comes to new relationships. Here are some things to consider so you can sort the good eggs from the bad eggs:
1. Picture perfect. No matter how logical and intelligent we are, many of us still want to believe in Disney-fied fairy tale relationships. This is why so many people fall for the carefully crafted facade of predatory personalities. They uncannily intuit what you’re looking for and then pretend to give it to you until they’re confident you’ve developed an attachment to them. Then the mask comes off and the Jekyll and Hyde metamorphosis occurs.
Reality: If someone seems too good to be true, she or he probably is. No one’s perfect; everyone has flaws. A healthy individual acknowledges his or her personal short-comings and works on them. An emotional predator will do her or his best to hide their flaws, cruel streak and self-centered-ness (although, some of them put it all right out there from the get go and incredibly still attract mates).
Once a flaw is exposed, this type of individual will deny its existence or punish you for having witnessed it. Therefore, you need to pay closer attention. Look for the cracks in the exterior. Don’t ignore what initially seems like uncharacteristic outbursts, rudeness or coldness. Don’t let yourself be blamed for her deficits. Remember, no one is perfect. Ideally, you should be looking to meet someone whose flaws, personal quirks and issues don’t hurt you.
A good potential mate can acknowledge things she doesn’t like about herself or would like to change and demonstrate that she is actively working on them. I’m not talking about superficial changes like, “I wish my arms were more buff,” but something that would help her to grow as a person and improve her relationships. For example, “I have trouble letting down my guard and expressing my feelings when I’m upset about something, but I’m working on it. It would help if when you notice I’m quiet, clam up or seem like I’m upset if you would try to draw me out a little bit because I want to be able to talk about these things and resolve issues as they arise. I’m afraid you’ll reject me or get mad at me if I tell you how I’m really feeling.” However, if she lashes out at you when you reach out to her after she asked you to do so, let her go. It’s an indicator of a “no-win situation” dynamic that will slowly drive you mad.
2. Flattery will get you everywhere. Many predators drug you with praise and flattery—at first. Beware of statements like “No one’s ever made me feel this way before. I’ve never met anyone like you. I could really fall in love with you. No one has ever understood me like you. I’ve never felt this strong of a connection before.” Be especially skeptical of these statements if they’re made in the first few weeks or hours of dating. This is a con artist’s technique called, mirroring—“using flattering statements to lift a listener’s confidence in himself.”
Reality: It takes time to really get to know someone and build trust. “Instant intimacy” is typically a sign that someone’s stroking your ego into submission and/or that they neither possess nor respect personal boundaries—a hallmark of many a BPD /NPD/HPD/APD individual. It’s natural to want a love interest to notice how special and unique you are, however, this doesn’t happen overnight. Pace your new relationships and remember, the higher the pedestal she places you upon early in the relationship, the further you’ll crash down when she kicks it out from underneath you later. Once these women “catch you,” they almost immediately begin to devalue you, so don’t drink the Kool-Aid.
3. Act now while supplies last! This is a high-pressure sales/con technique that many emotional predators use. They exude supreme confidence and a “you should be so lucky to be with me” attitude. They “casually” mention other men who are interested in them and how their exes keep trying to win them back. This is a device used to trigger a sense of scarcity and competition within you. You then go to great lengths in order to “win” her and thereby set the precedent for a very one-sided relationship. This is a huge red flag. Only a narcissist or someone with equally toxic pathology makes a love interest continually jump through hoops like this. It’s another control device, so don’t bite on it.
Reality: There are other fish in the sea. What exactly are you trying to win? What is she doing to please you or win you over—aside from leading you on a merry chase and getting you to perform acts of service and devotion? What acts of service and devotion is she performing for you? Healthy relationships are reciprocal. Don’t just take her word about all of the things she claims she does for you. This kind of woman will make a grand spectacle of all the things, careers, relationships and opportunities she’s “sacrificing” for you. The reality is that an emotional predator doesn’t sacrifice anything for anyone and rarely does anything that’s in someone else’s best interests. It’s all smoke and mirrors.
Additionally, examine why you’re working so hard to gain someone’s affection or prove yourself “worthy.” This is usually a sign that you have some residual relationship issues from childhood to explore and resolve.
4. All the right words; all the wrong moves. Emotional predators are skilled manipulators and often bald face liars. This kind of woman is well-practiced in telling you whatever it is you want to hear and then doing the complete opposite. When they’re not consciously lying, borderlines, narcissists and other predators are prone to confabulation. In other words, they believe their own BS, which makes it all the more difficult for you to sort the facts from their personal fictions.
Reality: We all employ a little self-deception from time to time. What lies do you tell yourself when you get involved with a woman like this? Do you tell yourself, “Things will get better. It’s not so bad. She must really love me to be acting this crazy. If only I work a little harder. . . ?” When dating, it’s important to pay close attention to your dates words, actions and your reactions. Many emotional predators know all the “right” things to say, but their actions frequently don’t match their “hype.” If you notice a discrepancy between the two, don’t ignore it and don’t lie to yourself about it by making excuses for her.
Spotting emotional predators in the dating pool is a necessary survival skill. Becoming involved with an abusive, entitled and pathology ridden individual is a personal disaster many people bring upon themselves that is easily avoidable if you approach relationships with equal amounts of passion and intelligence.
by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
Shrink4Men Coaching and Consultation Services:
Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.
If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.
Veruca Salt and the educated eggdicator on alicia-logic.com
Namie, G. (2003). Workplace bullying: Escalated incivility. Ivey Business Journal, 88, 1 -6.