Recently, Donald Trump made headlines when he publically criticized Anne Hathaway for not sticking by her boyfriend of four years, Raffaello Follieri, following his arrest for fraud and money laundering. Apparently, Trump doesn’t understand the romantic con artist, but that’s OK, neither did I until I was targeted by one. In spite of the best psychiatric training this country has to offer, I fell for, married and had a son with a con man. I filed for divorce when following his arrest, I realized his true nature. So when Trump chastises Hathaway, he also chastises me and other women who have fallen for con men.
In the wake of the destruction left by the con man, I looked within myself for an answer to the “why me?” question. I also sought out other victims to see if there were any patterns to be found in the way romantic con men operate. I was privileged to get to know other duped successful women, both personally and anonymously through a survey conducted with my colleague Sandra L. Brown, M.A. As I read the accounts of Anne Hathaway’s relationship to Raffaello Follieri, I was impressed by the degree to which her story fits the typical pattern in terms of both the players and the game.
First let’s discuss the players. The typical con artist has what psychologist call “psychopathic personality traits.” The con artist is arrogant, confident and a good talker. He is obsessed with the pursuit of power. This obsession when combined with the gift of gab leads to pathological lying. In addition to being motivated by power, con artists are also usually thrill seekers in need of constant excitement.
In the July 14th issue of People Magazine, Follieri is described as “arrogant” and “A guy who wore his confidence like one of his custom suits.” He sought to portray himself as powerful, espousing connections to the Vatican and residence in an apartment previously occupied by Aristotle Onassis. He led an exciting life, socializing with politicians and the wealthy and jet skiing on the French Rivera.
People Magazine also gives us some insight into the personality of Ann Hathaway. She is said to be “sincere and accepting” a “very strong woman” and “a sweet girl.” These words perfectly describe the typical female victim of a romantic con. As we report in our recent book (Women Who Love Psychopaths), the average woman we surveyed is extremely cooperative, tolerant and empathetic. We also found victimized women also seek excitement in their lives. This excitement seeking seems to form the point of connection between con men and their women.
Now the con game. People Magazine states, “She [said she] was put off initially by his arrogance and attitude. He pursued her and within two weeks they were madly in love.” This description could have come from any of the female victims I know. Con artists always move quickly so that their victims are kept off balance. After they talk themselves into women’s lives they entrap them. Women are entrapped by emotional bonds which result from the relationship intensity. As a group, psychopathic con artists are highly sexual and many are sex offenders. Women are also entrapped by social bonds and a sense of loyalty that the con artist often works to foster. Women may enter a state of denial about the relationship that can last years as it appears to have here. This unconscious denial results from not wanting to give up the “dream relationship” and not wanting to admit being the victim of a con.
Because of loyalty and denial, often the relationship does not end until the arrest of the con artist. These men are typically smothering and controlling; this dynamic is also said to have existed in Hathaway’s case. When the con artist finally goes to jail, the victim is free to talk with friends and think for herself. It is only then that reality sets in.
With regard to Donald Trump’s statement, “She hasn’t remained very loyal to him, has she? So when he had plenty of money, she liked him, but then after that, not as good, right?” I agree that successful women are often attracted to con artists because they appear to be rich, powerful and exciting. However, our research shows that women pay dearly for this attraction and the cost of the relationship increases the longer they stay. Most women are harmed in nearly every sphere of their lives: psychologically, emotionally, sexually, socially, occupationally and financially.
I would also like to point out that unlike Ms. Hathaway many women have had children within the context of a romantic con. The con artist is then in a position to use the children to continue to control their mother should she attempt a break-up. The children of these relationships suffer a great deal due to the con man’s erratic behavior. They also inherit genes that put them at risk to become antisocial.
Most women meet psychopathic con men through common friends as Hathaway did. However, internet dating is giving these men easy access to successful women. It is important for women who are adventurous, accepting and compassionate to know that they possess the traits con men look for. These women should also understand that when they seek adventurous, dominant and powerful men, they “are fishing in the pathology pond” as my colleague Sandra Brown, M.A. says. Women who discover they were conned into a relationship should get out as these relationships can be very destructive. The longer a woman sticks by her con man, the more harm she will suffer.
Although this story is about con men, there are also con women. These women are just as destructive as their male counterparts in terms of their children and their relatioship partners.