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Dating Advice #82 - Glaring Red Flags
Dating Advice 82

Dating Advice #82 - Glaring Red Flags

He may be a narcissist, or a control freak. In the meantime, he treats her like a queen and she doesn't want it to end. What's the long-term prognosis?


Dear Rosie & Sherry,

Through a mutual friend, I met a man who is 34 years old. I was told that he was married for a short time (three weeks) and that the marriage ended because his wife tried to kill herself. It was later explained that she had manic depression. My friend made it sound like this guy caught a bad break.

But I had many questions about the behavior I saw. After being divorced only six months, he came on very strong with me -- buying me lots of presents and taking me to expensive restaurants all the time.

On our very first date he revealed a great deal of intimate details about himself that I also found myself questioning. For example, he told me how he beat up people up in high school, including a teacher. He told me about issues with his father and older brother which are not good. He also told me how much money he made that past year. All these are subjects I did not bring up.

I later found out that he didn't even go to high school too much because he was getting into trouble, and that he later broke an engagement after a courtship that lasted four years.

The problem is that he appears unbelievably loving and committed to me. He calls me several times a day and always wants to be with me. He buys me things like socks and toothpaste -- not to mention all the jewelry, candles, flowers...

There is something about this that is eating at me and making it difficult to commit. He says I'm his "bashert," but it sounds like he's had a few of those before me, and he never speaks nicely of any of his ex dates. They somehow have all done something terrible to him.

Is it possible that a man could have such a weird past, but then meet the "right one" and it all falls into place? It feels so good to be loved and attended to in this way. What is you gut reaction to all of this?


Dear Naomi,

Our gut reaction isn't too good.

We can understand someone breaking off a marriage when they belatedly learn that their spouse is manic depressive, especially if she doesn't take her medication and/or her illness is hard to deal with. We've seen many marriages break up because of one spouse's bi-polar disorder. It is an illness that is very challenging to a marriage, although marriages under such circumstances can sometimes work if the bi-polar spouse takes medication regularly.

However, given all the other information you've learned about this man, we're sure you've considered the possibility that his story isn't true.

The fact that he revealed a lot of very personal information on your first date would make anybody uncomfortable, but some people don't realize that they are coming on too strong. If all that concerned you was that he had beaten people up and gotten into trouble in high school, we could say that he's gotten past these teenage difficulties and found a good place for himself in life. But there's a lot more that worries us.

This man definitely has a problem with relationships. We suspect that all his dates began as strongly as yours and something happened to destroy each of them. When you tell us that he has nothing nice to say about any of his former dates, we see a pattern emerging. Some people go into a new situation with unbridled enthusiasm, but as soon as they realize that the other person cannot given them unconditional love in return (nobody can do this), they feel betrayed and reject them. This is a pattern many narcissists repeat time and time again in their lives.

Other people are extremely charming and solicitous of a new date, but once they feel secure they start to become controlling. Unless they can control the other person, they fear they will lose her or that their own life will become chaotic. Such a person soon makes life miserable for the other person they feel they must control.

We're not positive that the man you are dating is a narcissist or a control freak, but we strongly suspect he falls into one of these categories. Long-term relationships with such people are not happy, stable or enduring.

Even if this man doesn't fall into one of the categories you described, there are so many red flags here that we worry about. You need to know a lot more about him.

There is no such thing as someone who has a very troubled past finding the "right one" and miraculously being okay. People who have overcome deep-seated problems have been in long-term psychotherapy.

We worry about your falling for this guy, because we think you are very vulnerable. You want the right man in your life, which is certainly understandable. However, that seems to incline you to look past warning signs and talk yourself into something that is not right for you. If you still insist on dating this man, we urge you to proceed with extreme caution.

Rosie & Sherry

January 19, 2003

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Visitor Comments: 14

(13) Anonymous, January 8, 2011 5:50 PM

Be Strong!

Yes, he loves me to the end of the universe, and hates me a day later. When things are good, they are grand with so much fun and "loving"--cuddling, dates out, experiences, gifts small and BIG, and the like. But! It can turn to the exact opposite a day later with nasty words being yelled at/about me and such that cut like a knife. I've been lived like this for almost two years. I gave and gave and I blamed myself for a long time wondering what I was doing wrong. I became very angry. I found later he was talking to several other girls that I had no idea about, been in serious amounts of trouble with the law, online dating stuff---it was/has been a nightmare. When I walked away, several days later he would come back and woo me. Roller coaster ride! Somehow I thought he really felt bad about the girls, and loved me, but it was never really about me and totally about him. Now I'm trying to be so strong. It's hard and it hurts because I put a lot of time in...and my heart got broken. I'm focusing on what I do want in a good relationship and keeping the negative out. I've learned so much from this experience. Thank you for sharing your stories. They make me not feel like I'm alone. Peace from here on out...

asdf, September 29, 2011 5:50 PM


Unfortunately, you hooked up with a borderline. Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder. It's a serious mental illness that you should read up on. There's a lot of good info online.

(12) Anonymous, October 15, 2010 1:58 AM

Narcissistic Personality Disorder!

Married him, suffered for almost 7 months, getting divorced. Very controlling, emotionally abusive, physically could strike and push you out the door and then beg you for your attention and love and care. You go into spirals with him. He can be as charming, to make you think he can do no harm one minute, and rage as a total devil who curses, criticizes you the next. Stay away! I saw a lot of signs but we rushed into the wedding... HUGE MISTAKE!

(11) Anonymous, March 2, 2007 12:54 PM

Naomi - this sounds a little familiar

Hi Naomi-

Out of curiosity, has there ever been a time when this man might suddenly deeply question you and the relationship? Almost like he doesn't love you (and maybe DEEPLY doesn't love you), but temporarily, while returning to the presents, phone calls all the time, and admiration? Do you know if he has had a history of being abused himself (sexually, physically, verbally) or if he's had other exceptionally traumatic experiences? Is sex REALLY (as in ESPECIALLY, maybe almost like an addiction to it or like something to be taken especially personally or to be used almost like a control) important to him, maybe to the point of some serious phases of promiscuity? Any other addictions?

I don't like to categorize people, and I'm not a trained therapist, but, if you answered yes to much of the above, it sounds at least a little like something psychologists (or at least the DSM4, the manual they sometimes use) sometimes call borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Again, this is just a thought from a person without formal training, and these are just labels for things that are not so simple. But, maybe it's worth a look.

Good luck.

(10) Anonymous, January 26, 2007 9:46 PM

Thank you!

I came across this article tonite about narcisstic personalities. I'm a widow and was married for many years. I have been dating a man for several weeks. I've seen in him the same type of behavior listed here..He's been married twice and I've been very uneasy with the relationship and ended it last weekend. I felt such "distrust" and that he wasn't very genuine. He said we were "soul mates" and was rushing marriage. He would also tell me I wasn't telling him I love him enough, etc. I felt so much better after I ended it.

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