Prince Charming or a Psycho? 6 Distinctions

He’s not going to show up for the first date swinging an axe with swastika tattoos in plain sight. And since men are 3 times as likely to be psychopaths (clinical term: antisocial personality disorder) and narcissists (which I’m calling psycho), I’ve chosen to use the male pronoun for this post, lest I’m accused of making unfair stereotypes.

Like me, you may fancy yourself above bedding down with a nut. But if you’ve ever found yourself making excuses for lies that got progressively worse, and engaging in reckless behaviors that, once on the other side, left you wondering what the fuck you were thinking, listen up my friend. None of us are invulnerable to the psycho.

1.  Lies. They start off small - ridiculous random lies - which is what the little voice in your head will say when your gut clenches, urging you to run for the hills. Time tends to be a commonly lied about subject. If he can’t account for it, if he’s chronically late or tends to cancel at the last minute, show him the door.

2.  Charm. Prince Charming has an x-factor, an ability to render those in his presence spellbound. As do narcissists. How to tell them apart? Prince Charming will ask about you. He’ll keep the conversation more evenly focused on each of you. He might even be slightly humble (a sadly uncommon trait these days). Your psycho (aka, narcissist) will be self-absorbed, far less interested in you than in how your stories allow him to shift the focus back to himself. His time is more valuable, his stories more interesting, his IQ superior, and his opinions are more accurate.    

3.  Control. There’s a fine line between showing an interest in your life (flattering) verses requiring minute detail about the minutia in your life. It can be hard to tell which is which. “Who are you texting?” can be either. For me, it boils down to frequency. If it becomes a commonly asked question, I’ve had a history of not answering. If the person is controlling, they’ll escalate in the absence of an answer (which is your signal to exit the room followed by exiting the relationship). If they’re sane, my lack of response usually underscores that the question was annoying. If they don’t take the hint, I say, “Your question is annoying.”

4.  Manipulation. Pacing a relationship is the hallmark of mental health and maturity. If he tells you he loves you (or calls you his soul mate) inside of a month, if he starts talking about marriage (or children, or moving in together) within the first 3 months, this is, at the very least, a sign of someone who is immature and doesn’t know how to delay gratification (which I personally find to be a huge turnoff). At worst, it can be an indication of manipulation: The faster he locks you into a commitment, the less influence your friends and/or family will have over his role in your life – the sooner he can drop his façade and become overtly controlling. 

Another common indication of manipulation is when he compares you to his exes – not because they were so great or he’s still hung up on him/her, but in an attempt to covertly communicate to you what he wants you to behave like, or to provoke competitiveness in you. This makes my skin crawl just writing about it.

5.  Victim. If his ex was crazy and he had nothing to do with the problems in that relationship, if everyone abandons him for no reason, if his life is laden with incident after incident of people doing him wrong – he’s got problems. And if you think you’re going to be the exception to the rule, you’re sadly mistaken. In fact, I’d venture to say that the only reason he’s sharing this sob story with you is to engender in you a desire to right the wrongs that everyone else has perpetrated. Forget it. He’s the common denominator. No one’s that unlucky.

6.  Ice. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with not remaining friends with people from the past, but if he has several examples of ending a variety of relationships without a backwards glance, you should hear ding-ding-ding. People who properly attach to one-another don’t have a switch inside them that, once flipped, allows them to walk away without conflict. Did he have a pet with an ex that he left and doesn’t visit? Did he have close friends in college that he has nothing to do with? After leaving a job, does he keep in touch with his colleagues? How about extended family? Do they talk? Visit? Again, as with the points above, it’s not about having one of these examples. It’s whether or not it’s pervasive.

Finally, since my last post left many of you wondering if Steph and I broke up, please know that we did not, and that in today’s post, Steph is not the veiled example of a psycho I was once in a relationship with. Neither, for the record, were people with the following initials: RS, EC, VR, RR, MG, DF, ST. I think that about covers my serious relationships.

You’ve got questions. I’ve got answers. Send me your questions (click here) and I’ll give you straight advice from a not-so-straight source.