LETTERS TO LOVEFRAUD: Taking the red flags seriously

Editor’s note: Lovefraud received this e-mail from a reader who we’ll call “Edna.”

I just had a two-month experience with a guy who, I am convinced, was grooming me for “the big scam.” I had been vigilant after a financial scourge from an ex who was an alcoholic/addict. Recently, however, grieving my mother’s ailing health and in a growing panic from the fires that raged in close proximity to my home, I sought some semblance of levity and allowed myself intimacy with a man, even after becoming very aware of several red flags. He seemed respectable, kind, and generous, was a friend of a friend and he loved the sun, the beach, nice dinners and good music.

I finally ended things last week because I could no longer deny that increasingly tumultuous feeling in my gut. Thankfully, it was soon enough to avoid any financial or emotional fall out. Hopefully this will help your readers.


  1. Over the top, grandiose gestures of flattery. Helicopter ride, flowers, wining and dining, wanting to whisk me off to the coast within the first week of dating.
  2. Tried to move the relationship too fast. He wanted to know if I was his girl within the first week.
  3. Needy and possessive. He seemed to want to spend all his time with me. Did not seem to have many friends.
  4. Lied about his financial condition. Bragged about his “properties” in Hawaii and elsewhere, his travels worldwide, how he paid cash for his fancy car. Found out later the properties all belonged to the “soon to be ex” and that she carried the mortgages. All that after claiming honesty was the most important thing to him.
  5. Called in a crisis. A week into dating, called to tell me he had no one else to talk to, but was in a panic because the “ex” cut off all his cards. I asked how she was in a position to do this. He said she was the primary cardholder. Sensing an imminent request for cash, I ditched him but resumed the connection a week later.
  6. Overly available – seemed to be available most days during work hours. He claimed to be an investigator who worked on a project basis. I noted that he didn’t return work calls promptly, hence the availability.
  7. No permanent place of residence. Claimed to be staying at his sister’s place (since 12/08) which was 3 hours in traffic from my place and 2 hours from his “work” place, had no discernable plans to move out (he had four pets and no landlord would take him), called me twice around 8 am from a Motel 6, had an inordinate amount of clothes in his car trunk, and once asked if he could do laundry at my place. His driver’s license was from Hawaii, and still listed the old address from 2008.
  8. No ATM card. He said he didn’t want one because it was too easy to spend money with it.
  9. Possible addictions – chainsmoker, potsmoker, binge drinker and lied about not using cocaine. I asked if he ever used cocaine and he said he used to but no longer did. One night after several beers, he wanted to make coffee because “he had no coke here”.
  10. Attempts to move in. He would leave articles of clothing, dirty laundry next to mine, or his toiletry case in my bathroom when he stayed over. He’d always try to stay “one more night” and would act like a banished peasant when I told him I needed my space. I’d bag his stuff after each stay and made sure he took it with him each time.
  11. Illegal activity. He tried to get me to stash his pot at my place or break into a vacant beach house and make love by their ocean view living room. I refused.
  12. Credit Card ploy. He tried to get me to place the b&b room reservations for our trip up the coast on my credit cards, saying he’d pay me later. When I refused, he gave the b&b his credit card number but my home and email address.
  13. Intrusive requests for confidential information. He asked me twice in different ways, what my mother’s maiden name was. I did not divulge her name. He asked what my billable rates were (I am a professional) and how long the next contract was for.


This time around, I did not keep his atrocious requests and behavior a secret. I talked to my friends about it and journalled with rigorous honesty each day, confronting my own behaviors, without judgement. This helped me remain grounded when I’d start floating into romantic fantasy. I continued to read your blogs and website, as well as other books on spotting dangerous men, during those two months. I averted any requests for cash or use of my credit and set boundaries on how much time I spent with him. I continued to include other activites and friends in my life. I did not provide confidential financial information, although I checked my bank and credit card activity daily for fear he may have obtained it surreptitiously. Finally, amazed by the absurdity of having to protect myself from my lover, I ended it.

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44 Comments on "LETTERS TO LOVEFRAUD: Taking the red flags seriously"

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Dear Thornbud,

But now you have learned, and I suggest that you “forgive yourself” fior not catching on sooner. You have caught ono NOW! (((hugs))))

Im gonna join in on the “fun” as Ive got a shitload of ‘red flags’ I ignored…

*A week after we met, he wanted to see me and was on his way to my house BEFORE we even spoke. Once we spoke, I told him I was busy and could see him the next day. He told me he couldnt because he had his child…which he FORGOT he already told me he DIDNT have his child that weekend…and that he was ALREADY on his way to my house…I told him to turn around and go back home… 😛
*He asked me to go on a ‘trip’ with him a month after we met.
*He had no debit card/credit card until 2 years into our relationship when I told him he NEEDED to get one cause I was tired of using mine…when he didnt bring enough money to use for the weekends he stayed at my house…every weekend!
*He refused to talk about his past relationships.
*He refused to talk about his best friends death…circumstances around the death he witnessed.
*I never met his childs mother, although the child stayed with me every other weekend at my house…an hour and a half away from his moms. My ex would tell me ‘she just doenst want to meet you’ when asked why we havent met.
*He wanted ME to open up a cell phone package and put HIM on it…2 months after meeting…because it would ‘save us money’ if we were on the same plan THAT I PAID FOR…which he would reimburse me for.
*He lived with his parents from the time I met him…at 32 until we broke up…at 36.
*He wanted me to COSIGN a motorcycle for him…and when told no he suggested I just BUY it for him and he’d make ‘payments’ to me over a 6 month period.
*He would plan our weekends to a tee…even including WHEN we were gonna have sex…and how many times.

I could go on and on and on and on…and probably will, but not right now…

Any feedback?

Hi Easy

I watched the video you linked. I was stunned by the severity of the penalty. In France, the worst serial killers get 30 years, with a security minimum of 22 years without parole.

However, I would like to make a comment. I don’t know the specifics of the case, but the end of the video gave me the creeps.

Consider what she says :

« My judge had told me I lacked moral scruples and I understand that. I had no clue what morals were and no clue what scruples meant. So I had to find that in the dictionary and put the two together. So “integrity” and “honesty” and all of these things i needed to learn. »

She talks of « moral scruples » as if it was an ordinary knowledge everyone would learn in a textbook or a dictionnary, like maths, the history of the USSR or german.

But moral scruples isn’t something you store in your neo-cortex as any ordinary memory. Moral scruples involve a complex set of neural circuits in your older brain, underpinning the moral emotions : empathy, guilt, remorse, anxiety.

Psychopaths lack this moral brain (or at least, i doesn’t work properly) and so far, we have been unable to improve this condition, we are unable to develop those feelings. Empathy or moral scruples aren’t just some kind of cognitive softwares you can download from a book in order to become a good person.

How would you react if I told you that I had no clue about what « homosexuality » means, but that I have read 20 books on the subject, and that it’s ok now, I am a new person now, I am attracted to men, I have great sex with male partners, I am a rehabilitated homosexual ? You would think I am joking, because things are not so simple.

If you educate a psychopath, says Gregg McCrary, all you get is an educated psychopath.

This convicted woman illustrates what psychologists mean when they say that psychopaths don’t seem to grasp the emotional meaning of words, that they have a dictionary-deep understanding of the emotions that regulate social interractions, what we call « moral scruples ». If she had no moral scruples, no honesty, no empathy 13 years ago ”“ that is, if she was psychopathic, I doubt her condition has improved dramatically, except on a superficial level : mimicking the language of conscience.

I don’t mean to claim the sentence was fair, I just want to signal what appears to be, in my opinion, a huge red flag.

I have the deep feeling that my conscience has always been there within me, as far as I remember. My earliest memory is related to conscience. I can still feel the guilt i felt that day.

I was in preschool, walking hand in hand with a younger girl, and for no reason, I started squeezing her little hand harder and harder, surprised that she didn’t seem to react. But suddenly she started crying, and i was overwhelmed by guilt, shame and fear that I would be punished for this callousness. This is my first memory as a human being.

So, when I hear this convicted woman seriously stating that she first learnt about moral scruples in a dictionary at about the age of 17 or 18, it gives me the creeps. She may have a cute face, her story had been very moving up to that point, she was able to elicit my pity, but when I heard that, I froze on my seat.

Nicolaid says:

“…This convicted woman illustrates what psychologists mean when they say that psychopaths don’t seem to grasp the emotional meaning of words, that they have a dictionary-deep understanding of the emotions that regulate social interractions, what we call « moral scruples ». If she had no moral scruples, no honesty, no empathy 13 years ago ”“ that is, if she was psychopathic, I doubt her condition has improved dramatically, except on a superficial level : mimicking the language of conscience…”

I would also expect her to be a better actress by now and more dangerous.

But I would also wonder if she had to learn to connect the emotional meanings to words to the ‘actual’ emotions themselves. Living in an autistic world here, not too many folks here ‘grasp’ the emotional meaning of words early on, although they do grasp (if not display) emotions and moral capacity, (and the two aren’t always the simultaneus)

Some low emotional autistic folks here still have a grand moral compass they follow. One autistic not so inclined to emotional reactions fell into an unexpected fit when he realized his mother lied to him. (The Tooth Fairy wasn’t real) and subsequently didn’t speak to her again for over a year, he would never forget that she lied. Which he reasoned that if it was so easy that she (one he considered a dependable source) could lie than how easy is it for others. He would since then always question everything. As he explained “her words can lie even though her actions do not.” Thus he was questioning everything, (I’m your mother, I love you.) with a “Is that fact or fiction?” response. He felt his birth certificate was suspect. After all babies could be switched. a DNA test was ordered simply to ease him, her words no longer had meaning to him, and he shut off from speaking to anyone for six months, for once she broke that rule she could no longer go back to a time where he could depend on what she said, or what words ‘meant’, to what actually ‘Was’.

He may have seemed to have had derailed from that episode very badly. i can understand that, though.

A ball I’m told is round. so when I think round, then I think the ball. But then when I’m later told the ball is really meaning ‘square’ than my whole world, my whole reality seems to fall apart and not make sense. Words connect to a visual part of me. So stating something is not what it is, i have a mental visual inside me regulating all my mental filing system collapse, flounder and then momentarily not work AT ALL. Even if but for a moment, that glitch is enough to derail me, enough for me to get physically sick about it. Since i have already attributed the word ‘square’ to mean something else appearing altogether something different. That’s what his mom did. To keep his reality intact he would protect himself from his mother and realize that all of what she says is not necassarily what ‘Is’ or his whole sense of reality can be shattered again. So even some of the most affected autistic with low level emotions, comes to a sense and drive of ‘What should be’. There is a need to have things go orderly in many of us and morality is order to us even while not always connected to an emotion. There is an ingrained moral sense of ‘what should be’ (it could also be a cold logical mental reasoning, as well as emotional reasoning) that keeps us grounded even if the world around us have tossed it all out the window.

Some grasping of connecting emotions or abstract concepts to the ‘actual words’ meaning them may take some time and then also how it relates to others around them (once we realize they exist) (maybe some time later for some) thus an an autistic may grasp what morality and integrity IS sometimes WAY before having connected the concept to an ‘actual’ word.

My world in the begining was labeling words to concrete physical objects, and it took far longer to understand ‘doing words’ or words attached to abstract entities. Once some of us got things to a certain extent, taking on the literal meaning of words was another arena we also had issues navigating from.

However by the age of sixteen, we sort of, most of us, got to that point already.

Speaking in comparison to just the autistics here, the convicted woman, (no longer a child), does not appear to be in any way affected with any sort of autism. It’s really not something you can hide, we can’t hide it. I have a ‘stone’ face and flat voice. i couldn’t feign those movements if i tried. I can feel the emotions, but displaying them is something else altogether, it takes effort. Unless there is some other condition other than psychopathy that she has, that she is not able to understand or conceptualize internally ‘what’ those emotions are but can still ‘display’ them out very well for the world to see, I don’t know what it is. but the fact that she said she had to ‘learn’ morality, left me cold. also the fact that she mentioned she was judged in the calculated way she killed. It wasn’t self defense or a crime of ‘in the moment’ rage, from what i understand here it was a preconceieved, planned out, calculated killing. The display of emotion, in and of itself, was but a distraction for me as I wanted to know what ‘actually’ happened. She killed someone, She is in jail, She wants out. That makes everything she says questionable to me so I distance myself from it.


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