What It's Like When You Love a Psychopath
I hate when guys call women crazy.
It's a cheap insult that has turned into a catch-all for guys who don't know how to properly express their feelings. That said, one time I dated an actual crazy person... who also happened to be a woman. Crazy-crazy. She told egregious lies, stole a lot of money, cheated on me more times than I probably know about, and once threatened to push me off the roof of our building.
I don't regret a second of our relationship. I mean, sure, I definitely could have done without the rift she caused in all my friendships or the matching little blue anchor tattoos we now permanently share… but the experience taught me a lot about myself. This is what I learned from dating a girl who claimed to have been in two MTV music videos before age 18.
Spoiler alert: she was lying. About everything.
Don't doubt yourself when you've got a hunch
We first met at a pizza place in Harvard Square. I was in desperate need of money and I assume she was, too. We were instantly attracted to each other, because I probably did something awful in a past life and the universe decided to punish me for it by bringing us together.
The first inkling of her lying tendencies came out the morning after we slept together. It started with her age; she told me she was born in 1991… one year later than she had said the night before. I chalked it up to being under the influence and brushed it off. Then there was a detail that stood out from another story she had told about some friends of hers that had "done work in Africa."
The story was a heartfelt tale about three friends who had helped build houses in "an undeveloped" village somewhere on the continent. Through intermittent sobs, she told me how all of her friends came back infected with AIDS and had all recently succumbed to the virus. I -- again being very intoxicated -- held and comforted her, regardless of the fact that AIDS does not spread like Ebola and that missionaries would almost certainly know how to avoid the disease.
I brushed these thoughts off and continued on with my budding infatuation.
Listen to your friends
My friends and family tried to warn me -- they really did -- but I didn't listen. I assured them that she embellished stories, but had proof to back up her supposed lies and placed the blame on myself when describing her jealousy.
She was a chameleon in every sense of the word, cloaking herself in any situation imaginable, and leaving me feeling as though I still don't really know who she is.
The way she acted with me in private versus how she acted with a group of friends was like night and day. In public, she'd be chipper, cunning, and fun: the embodiment of the classic "cool girl" who didn't break a sweat about anything. With me, she mimicked every thought and emotion I felt.
Any interest I happened to mention would become her new "thing." If I went through a phase, she went there right alongside me.
She constantly went through my phone, computer, and journal and read every text, email, and message I wrote.
She had a jealous side, too; no device was safe from her hands. She constantly went through my phone, computer, and journal and read every text, email, and message I wrote. She hated when I went out anywhere -- to see my friends, go to work early, or even go running. Old girlfriends became sworn enemies and disagreeable friends became challenged.
Don't be afraid to ask questions
This whole debacle could have ended earlier if I'd just performed some basic fact-checking and internet searching. I knew things had gotten way out of hand when I heard her singing a familiar-sounding song and asked her what it was. She told me she had just written it -- she fancied herself a songwriter. With a pounding heart I put some of the lyrics into Google and found out that my girlfriend had miraculously made up the song "Tick of Time" by The Kooks. I didn't ask her about the incident until months later, when we broke up. She told me I misheard her.
I suppose it wouldn't have made a huge difference if I called her out on every single lie she told -- but it certainly would have helped keep me a little more sane. Every time I attempted to find the truth, I was derailed by her telling me I was imagining things or misremembering events.
I went crazy trying to patch the holes in her story: how could she have been a squatter in Florida if she was working as a photographer in Florida? How could she have attended Harvard University if she never finished high school? How could she have been in a band when she didn't even play an instrument? No timeline ever worked out and no two stories were ever told the same way.
To grasp what a person with this condition feels and why they act the way they do, I spoke to clinical psychologist Dr. Robert Figlerski.
"Personality disorder -- you need to understand -- is a long-standing self-defeating pattern of behavior. It's a very self-centered disorder based around their needs and their wishes. They use emotion to manage and manipulate the situation. Their ability to empathize -- to look at other people as human beings with feelings -- is really limited. They often treat people as an object toward their goal, rather than people with emotions. Deceit and lying is really one of the hallmark symptoms. They're managing the moment to address their needs. They're very impulsive, often don't plan ahead. People can be charmed by a psychopath and, very often, get involved with very complicated and intimate relationships, but ultimately feel used, abused, and mistreated."
Never ignore red flags
This piece of advice rings true with any relationship, sociopath or no sociopath. I wish I didn't turn a blind eye when she stopped coming home after work and started sleeping on a "co-worker's couch" to avoid the long commute home. I wish I called her out on messaging my ex-girlfriends on Facebook, and I sincerely wish I had dissuaded her from stealing from every single store we walked into.
That's the thing about these kinds of awful relationships: you just choose not to see the red flags, even when they're right in front of you. I remember asking her, via text, if she cheated on me. She said yes. I asked her if she had sex with the guy she cheated on me with, she said yes.
When I called her and told her it was over, she told me I had read her texts wrong… she was "saying 'yes' to two different questions.'" Which two questions did she think she was replying to? She forgot, of course.
I tell people that I moved from Boston to New York because there was no work for me in Boston. In the back of my mind, I quickly add, "Plus, I wanted to get away from my ex-girlfriend."
She left me in emotional shambles; I didn't trust anybody after her and couldn't bear the thought of even occupying the same space.
Moving away from her was one of the best decisions of my life. Obviously, not everyone has the time or money to do such a drastic change, but cutting off all contact is strongly advised.
She left me in emotional shambles; I didn't trust anybody after her and couldn't bear the thought of even occupying the same space. Pretty inconvenient, since we lived together. After we broke up, we spent a few months in the same apartment. She abruptly started dating someone else and -- I shit you not -- got engaged to this guy within weeks of dating him.
I now have a real sense of how relationships should be -- and as a result of her horrible ways, I don't sweat the small stuff anymore. It's not that I'm never mad. It's just that I only get mad at things that need to be gotten mad about. In a twisted way, this girl made me the best possible boyfriend I could be. My trust issues have diminished and I have a keen sixth sense for knowing when a person is lying to me.
As for her, I have no idea what she's up to. The guy she was engaged to broke it off when he found out she tried to take out a $25,000 loan in his name. We ended up meeting once for drinks and spent the whole time trading insane stories. He fact-checked with me and I fact-checked with him. Of course, the best part was when he took his sweater off and revealed a little blue anchor tattoo on his forearm… the very same anchor she and I had gotten together.
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