I’m currently reading Dark Souls by Sarah Strudwick, and I’m struck by the blatant and brazen behaviour of her psychopathic ex, as described in the book. There were definite and tangible ‘red flag’ moments for her which she chose, at that time, to ignore for a range of personal reasons (mainly due to her past history of abuse and low self-esteem at the time she was in the relationship).
It struck me how very different our two exes were, yet at the same time so very similar in their thought processes and behaviour patterns. One is ‘in your face’ the other a ‘slow burner’ but both are equally as dangerous.
In my own relationship, there were also a great many red flags, but they were subtle enough for me to overlook at first. It wasn’t until time had passed and they built up that they became more obvious. There were lies and inconsistencies in the stories told to me, particularly relating to his past, but nothing that was so sensational, that it became instantly unbelievable. It was gradual.
There was nothing brash, brazen, or remotely violent about my experience. There was no anger, rarely a raised voice (from him) and at no point did I feel threatened by, or scared of, him.
At the time I knew nothing about passive aggressive behaviour and I’d never heard of gaslighting, so I inevitably believed that many of the problems were my own, and for the most part blamed myself for the persistent misery in which we lived.
When I look back now, I see my marriage to a psychopath like being in a psychological slow cooker. The ingredients for disaster were all there right from the very beginning, but it took time for the heat to really build up and the ensuing chaos to erupt. Even when it did, he remained calm, distant, cold and unassuming. A psychopath doesn’t need to be wielding his fists or a weapon to be dangerous. I feel that is a common misconception.
I knew I was on the ‘burner’ from very early on though. I could feel the heat building in the form of my own disquiet, and his growing distance and ultimate disdain. But the ‘light bulb moment’ only occurred at the very end when the whole world was crumbling around my ears.
The first ‘moment’ (as I describe in Web of Lies) came when he took money set aside to feed the children and booked a five star hotel to entertain his new girlfriend in. When I confronted him about this, he told me he felt entitled to a ‘break’ in a lap of five star luxury, despite the fact he knew we had no money to feed our kids. Upon realizing what he’d done, it occurred to me for the first time that the man had serious psychological issues. I knew no normal parent could do that to their own children, so it had to be that he wasn’t ‘normal’. This was the first time I considered he might be mentally unstable.
The second ‘moment’ came after the split when he seriously suggested we divide the children between us as though they were ornaments or assets of some sort. In that moment, when he made the suggestion, I looked into his eyes and saw there was nothing behind them. There was no ‘light’ there. And that’s when I knew I was dealing with a person without feeling or conscience. A person who could not love, or be loved.
After that, things started to finally fall into place, as I began to arm myself with knowledge and get therapy for the damage created by years on the ‘slow burner’.
As Dr David Holmes recently said to me about my books ;
“It’s so important to realise that these people do not visit the doctors and be diagnosed. They have to be identified and exposed by those close to them, which is hard, and anything that makes it easier will limit the damage done”
This is exactly why sites such as Waking You Up are needed to help men and women in relationships with these people to spot the red flags, and enable them to have their ‘light bulb moments’ before it’s too late. These men and women do not walk around with ‘I am a psychopath’ written across their foreheads. Only by learning how to spot the signs, and sharing our experiences, can we raise awareness of this problem in our society.
In some cases, these ‘light bulb moment’s come when we recognize our own frailties and weak points, and realize that we have become a magnet for a certain type of personality. Only by recognizing this in ourselves can we make the changes required to ensure we never allow another one of these people into our lives.
In other cases (like mine) the devil is literally hidden in the detail, and it can take time on the slow burner before we finally acknowledge and accept what we’re dealing with. As I said, the psychopath does not need to necessarily be a physical threat to pose a formidable danger to our well-being . The slow burners are equally as dangerous.