Red Flags

 One of the books I read to learn about narcissism, how it shows up in relationships and how to break free, was Psychopath Free by Jackson MacKenzie. In the beginning of the book, it has a chapter called Spotting Toxic People and describes 30 Red Flags often seen in narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths. I could identify N in each and every one of them. It was really the first time I felt validated about what I had been going through and was continuing to go through at that time. I highly recommend reading the book, and I will go through a few examples of how the 30 red flags showed up in my relationship. 

1- Gaslighting and crazy-making. 

N had the habit of “disappearing “ and not answering texts. When I would ask what he was doing that he couldn’t answer, he would accuse me of not trusting him, being overbearing, too anxious, not trusting him. He would use his mental health issues as a need for space or time “alone”, and since I’m in healthcare, he would accuse me of being insensitive, since I should "know that’s what he needs." He would often speak about wanting to hurt himself and end his life, so I would worry when he disappeared and didn’t answer, but then I was always at fault, no matter what I did- inquiring or giving space.  Never mind that he would accuse me of cheating the second I didn’t answer his text fast enough, even though he knew I was at work or home with the kids. 

Even when I had finally told him I was done, he continued to try to gaslight me. He swore he wasn't cheating, swore on his kids' lives, that he wasn't texting anyone. I asked to see his phone if he wasn't hiding anything. He tried to say that wasn't trusting of me, that he wasn't doing anything wrong. He went so far as to tell me that he would get a flip phone, as if that would solve anything. Little does he know how much evidence I had collected up to that point. I have evidence of him sexting the same day he would swear he wasn't doing anything wrong. He asked many times for me to tell him what I knew, but I wasn't going to give him the chance to try to twist it around and gaslight me. 

I have realized that the closest thing to a confession I ever got was whatever he was accusing me of, was what he was doing. 

2- Cannot put themselves in your shoes, or anyone else's. 

At his last duty station in the Navy, he was accused by several women of sexual harassment and was facing trial to decide his fate in the military. He hired a civilian lawyer and spent thousands of dollars on legal fees. He had never apologized for all of the stress this caused to me or the family, or for being in all of the various situations that brought these multiple charges against him. When I pointed this out and asked him to think about how he would treat me if the roles had been reversed, he thought that was ridiculous and could not comprehend why that mattered. I reminded him of all that I had put up with, all that I had been expected to just forgive and forget during our relationship- infidelity, verbal/emotional/financial/spiritual abuse. He responded, “I don’t see how that matters. That’s a stupid argument. You just want to focus on the past.”

3- The ultimate hypocrite.

I have so many examples of this it’s hard to choose. I wasn’t allowed to have any social media- he went so far as finding an instagram account with 2 pictures I posted 4 years before we met, and I forgot was even still open, and he insisted I prove that I had deleted the account.  He, however, has multiple secret Facebook and Instagram accounts, Snapchat, OnlyFans, and dating website accounts. He uses aliases as to try to not be found out. 

Also, I was never allowed to wear tank tops, shorts or workout tights without shorts on top, even while living in 90-100 degree weather. He would wear muscle tanks that he had ripped or go shirtless whenever possible. I wasn’t allowed to make friends, spend time alone with friends, go to church or even participate in a women’s Bible study, but he would party, lie about who he was with or what he was doing. If I said anything or asked any questions, I was instantly accused of not trusting him or cheating.

4- Pathological lying and excuses. 

When I started to become suspicious that he was lying, I decided to check the phone records. One night in particular he was on his phone constantly, and he told me his friend in NE was asking stupid medical questions. When I checked the records there was only 1 number and that was of a side chick, not the friend in NE. 

After I ended things with him, he stole my debit card to my son’s bank account. I didn’t realize it was missing, because I never used it. Four months later, he used the card to withdraw all of my son’s money from his account. When asked about it, he denied it and said heinous things to my son (his legal son). Obviously there is proof from the ATM location and camera to confirm he was lying.

5- Focuses on your mistakes and ignores their own.

When I found out he had been married to his other son’s mother, I was 6 weeks pregnant with his daughter. He said it wasn’t a big deal, he never wanted to marry her anyway. He tried to justify it by accusing me of not telling him every detail about my ex (that I had divorced 8 years prior), and so I must be hiding something. 

When he realized he could no longer lie about stealing my son’s money (there is footage at the ATM and we didn’t live in the same state), he then tried to blame my son for never liking him anyway, as if that somehow justified stealing a child’s money.

6- You find yourself explaining the basic elements of human respect to a full-grown man (or woman). 

N frequently made comments about how he deserved extra respect for being in a higher tax bracket (only because of my income), being in the military or driving a new truck. He looked down on those in different circumstances and talked about how much better he was than everyone else. When I pointed out that everyone deserves respect, he could not comprehend why I would say that. 

7- Selfishness and a crippling thirst for attention. 

N always needed to be the center of attention. He needed constant praise, constant reassurance that he was the hottest, sexiest, smartest, hardest working, best father, etc. He would get angry if I didn’t give him enough praise about his looks if he sent a selfie or if I didn’t say thank you good enough if he changed a diaper or did laundry one time. If anyone gave me a compliment in front of him, he would instantly try to twist it to make a joke of me, insult me in some way. At our wedding I told the photographer to focus on him, not me. He was shocked. He said, “Doesn’t your husband know this is your day? That the focus should be on you?” I told him no, that’s not how this works.  Even still, after the wedding, N accused me of not giving him enough attention.

8- Accuses you of feeling emotions that they are intentionally provoking. 

After watching him flirt with my coworkers and drug reps, I was accused of being jealous and crazy if I brought it up. After finding out he had a secret IG and Snapchat account, he accused me of not trusting him. After finding out he was cheating, I was accused of not being ‘ride or die’, not being able to ‘move on’ fast enough. During any of these arguments if I cried I was being too emotional and told I trying to use tears to manipulate him. 

9- You find yourself playing detective. 

When words and actions weren’t matching up, I found myself playing detective, trying to figure out the truth. I had realized that there was no point asking about my concerns to find the truth, because not only would he lie to my face, he would turn around and accuse me of not trusting him, being crazy, jealous etc and a fight would follow. So I didn’t ask, I investigated. 

10- You are the only one who sees their true colors. 

He was charismatic, everyone thought he so nice, the best husband and dad, a dedicated sailor. What they didn’t know was he was basically an absent in his kids’ lives, didn’t show up to work many days, was emotionally, financially, spiritually and physically abusive. He constantly lied about where he was (to everyone) and what he was doing. He was punching walls, throwing our cellphones, destroying the kids’ things, keeping everyone walking on eggshells at all times. 

Once while at one of his co-worker's house I was standing in the kitchen by myself while he went to the restroom. I didn't interact with anyone for fear of false accusations. One of his Hispanic male 'friends' came into the kitchen asking for a shot of tequila. I poured it for him as N came out of the bathroom. The friend made of gesture of 'cheers' to me and being nice, I tipped the bottle to 'cheers', he took his shot and walked away. N saw this and cornered me in the kitchen, put his face in my ear, and proceeded to accuse me of cheating, flirting with everyone and calling me every insult in the book. He walked away to pretend to his friends in the next room that everything was great. I walked straight out the front door and all the way home in the dark. He, of course, tried to change the story the following day, but I was the only sober one there and remembered exactly what happened. 

11- You fear that any fight could be your last. 

I had learned to not question him, not to ask for anything and definitely don’t complain about anything. Any fight led to him giving me the silent treatment. If I didn’t apologize, even when I hadn’t done anything, then I was ungrateful, even when he was abusive it was my fault for making him upset. He would often threaten he was leaving, divorcing me, even yell it in front of the kids. 

12- Slowly and steadily erodes your boundaries.

During the love bombing phase, he had gotten me to confide in him what my insecurities were, my interests and goals. Little did I know, he would the use those things against me little by little to manipulate me. 

Even though I am highly educated, he took every opportunity to insult my intelligence, make fun of my education or desire to constantly learn more. If I pointed out how hurtful that was, then I couldn’t take a joke and was too sensitive. 

13- They withhold attention and undermine your self-esteem. 

N would complain if I didn’t give him enough attention, but would also be annoyed if I tried to show him any affection. It left me on edge, never knowing what to do, guessing what he wanted. His last few months in the military, he spent most days lying in the couch watching TV and sleeping instead of working. I worked from home and my income paid the bills, so I had to work. Even still, he would get mad at me for not hanging out with him all day and make him snacks even though he was literally next to the kitchen, not working. 

14- They expect you to read their mind. 

N once got so mad that I didn’t acknowledge his grandpa’s birthday- someone I never met, had passed away before I met N, and I had never been told when his birthday was. That being said, he ‘forgot’ everyone else’s birthdays (mine, the kids’, his parents) because he ‘doesn’t remember dates’. It was mind-blowing. 

15- You feel on edge around this person, but you still want them to like you.

His mood bounced all the time- from love bombing to angry rage- keeping everyone on guard and walking on eggshells. Before deployment he blamed it on his depression, trauma from his parents, past relationships. After deployment he blamed PTSD for his anger, bad behavior, disrespect, alcoholism, irritability, but he wanted no part of therapy or treatment. If you brought it up, he was quick to say “I’m a war hero, I can do what I want”. 

16- An unusual number of "crazy" people in their past.

His parents were crazy, his sister was crazy, his former wives were crazy, his co-workers were crazy, his old friends and parents took advantage of him. There was always a sob story about how everyone in his life used him, mistreated him, abused him, took advantage of him. I know he continues the trend by talking about how ‘crazy’ I am too. 😂 Once his 4th wife leaves, she too will be deemed crazy as well. 

17- Provokes jealousy and rivalries while maintaining their cover of innocence. 

N would make up excuses about having to go ‘hang with the guys’, saying it was a going away dinner, he had to help someone in a tough spot, decompress from stress at work. Any excuse that would make it possible to turn it around on me for not being supportive if I had an issue with it. Of course, I confirmed my suspicions later that he was with other women and just needed an excuse. If I questioned anything, it was immediately turned back on me as being unsupportive, jealous, a bitch. I never was able to go anywhere without him. When I asked to be able to go to a women’s Bible study, I was accused of looking for a way to cheat! The hypocrisy of his actions was completely lost on him.

18- Idealization, love-bombing, and flattery. 

N wanted to move things as fast as possible, pretending to have the same goals, hopes, dreams, interests, but little did I know at the time that it was all fake, a facade. He would constantly text, pretending to be concerned if I didn’t text fast enough. He would buy gifts for me and my son, trying to love-bomb his way in. He would say I was the 1st person he ever sang for, invited to work events or wanted kids with. What he thought were compliments or flattery, I would later realize were red flags which is why it made me uneasy.

19- Compares you to everyone else in their life.

N constantly compared me to his exes, told me how I was better than them, while also making it known how they did him wrong so I wouldn’t do the same. He would say I was his soulmate, we were meant to be, ‘ride or die’. When he was mad, I was suddenly the worst woman in the world, being compared to his mom. I was fat, lazy, insulted as a person, a mother, a doctor. 

20- The qualities they once claimed to admire about you suddenly become glaring faults. 

In the beginning I was complimented on being smart, active, a single parent, but eventually these were all turned into insults. I was a book nerd, too fat, a horrible parent, and the reason my ex was abusive. 

21- Cracks in their mask.

N’s mask really started to crack at his last duty station in the military. One night he was mad and threw my Nalgene bottle across the room and cracked the closet door. The next day he said it didn’t happen because he didn’t remember it. 

Another day he was mad and threw the fan across the room and punched the door, while I was holding our then 3 year old. The next day he was mad the fan was broken but didn’t believe that he had broken it. 

22- Easily bored.

N needed constant adoration. If he were home, he expected to be waited on, given constant attention at the expense of everyone else. He would only want to do something outside the home if it would give him attention. He didn't want to participate in any family activity or outing unless it would provide an opportunity for him to get praise or attention. He would say he hated people and had PTSD, so he couldn't go to the kids' event/school activity, or that doing a family activity like going to the zoo was stupid.

N would also come up with new ideas and plans in his boredom. He said he was going to learn to play the guitar, so he bought a guitar and never used it. He thought he was going to be a famous podcaster, so he paid for a logo to be made for t-shirts and hats that were never used. He told people he was a Dad Bod influencer, so he spent hundreds on their products when in reality he was scammed into being an 'ambassador.' He wanted to be famous on Instagram so he paid to get thousands of followers (bots) and then lost hundreds in a scam to be verified. 

23- Triangulation. 

N had forbade me to speak to any males, and if I did, I would be asked 20 questions to make sure I wasn't cheating, and judged if I answered 'correctly'. This would include when I would go to the grocery store, if the cashier was I guy, I was expected to tell N everything that was spoken. If I happened to run into his boss (a male), I had to tell him everything that was said while also being told I shouldn't have even responded. Meanwhile, he spent his work day flirting with women co-workers, texted them after hours, sent them selfies and seeking attention from anyone that would provide it. At the same time, he would make fun of them to me- making fun of their looks, their job performance, their spouses, etc. If I questioned him about it, I was accused of being jealous and crazy, because why would he be texting or flirting with fat, ugly, married women at work? But that's exactly what he was doing.

24- Covert abuse.

Early in the relationship, N pretended to have empathy for me as a single mother, respect for my career, ability to travel and be educated. Over time, these were the things he used against me, to insult me. He went so far to say I "deserved to be abused" by my ex husband, and that he was better because he had never laid a hand on me, even though he wanted to. He constantly accused me of cheating, even though I never did. I lived in constant fear that a guy would talk to me- a cashier or coworker or whoever- and I would have to spend hours justifying some innocent interaction. To the public, he would put on a show of happiness and laughter, but behind closed doors he would berate me constantly. I wasn't allowed to speak Spanish or even let people know I speak Spanish. I wasn't allowed to wear clothes that weren't baggy and covering my arms and legs, even though we lived in tropical climates. I wasn't allowed to miss a phone call from him or let too much time pass without replying to a text. I wasn't allowed to attend church, Bible study or make friends or hang out with old friends. I wasn't able to question him about anything- money he spent, where he was, or any of his decisions- unless I wanted to bare the wrath of his rage.

25- Pity plays and sympathy stories. 

His favorite line is “I’m not saying woe is me”, even though that’s exactly what he was saying. He blamed his issues on his mom being racist, that his parents never helped him with anything and only gave him attention if he did good in sports. He blamed his ex-wives for only using him and that they only cared about him when he left. He used all of these things to get empathy. He blamed the military leadership in his last duty station for having it out for him, even though he had several women accusing him of sexual harassment. He blamed his PTSD as the cause of his anger, actions and alcohol abuse, but refused to seek treatment. Several times he would say he was seeing a therapist or counselor but in reality was using that time to see other women. He was never the cause of his problems, only the victim. 

26- The mean and sweet cycle. 

He would drink, be abusive and say he wanted a divorce then act like nothing happened the next day. He would try to distract from the situation by buying a gift and then get mad that I wasn’t grateful for him getting me a gift (that I didn't want or need). He would use this to shift the blame back on me and forget about the initial issue. He accused me of looking at a guy at the store and gave me the silent treatment, then booked a staycation at a local resort (that we couldn’t afford) for ‘family’ time 2 days later. 

If you were to look at texts from him, they are full of insults and accusations followed by attempts at acting like nothing happened, with no apology in between and no change in action. After I had told him I was done, he stole my rings, LV wallet, emptied my son's bank accounts, continued to steal thousands of dollars from me, was actively pursuing several other women and proposed to one, but still had the audacity to ask if I was willing to take him back. 

27- This person becomes your entire life. 

It had slowly become evident that I needed to be available whenever he wanted something, or I would incur anger and the silent treatment as punishment. Over time I realized that I was not allowed to see friends unless I wanted to deal with the thousands of questions and accusations afterwards. He wanted my focus to be only on him, available to do whatever he asked- make calls, run errands, do everything for the kids- to allow him to do as he pleased with no responsibilities. This also allows a narcissist to isolate their victim, making it difficult for them to seek help when needed from friends and family.

28- Arrogance. 

N frequently told stories of how he was better than people at work, better than his parents and sister, better than people he also referred to as friends. While it may be normal to vent about issues at work and with family or friends, N would brag about how he was able to manipulate coworkers into thinking he was doing one thing while actually doing another. He often used the phrase "sharks hunt in silence" to justify this manipulation. 

I remember when I told him the financial planner at my job told me my income put me in a certain tax bracket, and N went on a 5 minute speech about how that made him above the rest of the people he knew, that no one was on his level. I was completely disgusted. I said, "My income doesn't make us better than anyone." He looked at me dumbfounded. I dropped the conversation to avoid an argument. He would frequently comment about how he deserved to be better off than everyone else, as if it were his right.

29- Backstabbing gossip that changes on a whim. 

N spoke poorly of everyone behind their back and acted like their friend to their face. He told stories of how his 1st wife prevented him from seeing and speaking to his son, that she was just jealous and mad that he divorced her. He said she didn't work and just lived off of child support and her other baby daddy and her own dad. I've since learned this was all lies. He said his 2nd wife cheated on him, and he divorced her when she didn't support his career. He frequently made fun of people he worked with- his bosses, coworkers, everyone. He would comment on the women's looks, weight and job performance, but later I would find out that these same women he was texting inappropriately. I later realized he was speaking poorly of me to them to get their sympathy and eventually sleep with them. Most notably he spoke of a couple at his last duty station since the week we arrived. The husband was fat and incompetent, and the wife was fat and an idiot. I later obtained copies of the texts between N and the wife that were inappropriate, and she also sent him sex toys after she moved away. When N moved to the same town as them as he was kicked out of the military, he was suddenly friends with the couple, claiming he never did or said any of the things of which I have proof. 

30- Your feelings. 

I walked on eggshells constantly. I never knew what would trigger his anger, his accusations, his silent treatment, his insults. I had isolated myself from friends, wore baggy clothes, no shorts or sleeveless shirts, didn't speak to anyone in public, pretended I didn't speak Spanish, pretended to agree with everything he said, did whatever he wanted, took care of everything for the kids and household, didn't question his coming/going, didn't question where all the money I made was going, didn't ask for anything. As the years went on I became numb, tried to 'follow the rules', hold in my frustration with how the kids and I were treated, gave grace and tried to forgive the unforgettable. Nothing I did was enough for him. He continued to be financially, spiritually, emotionally, physically abusive, and I could not continue to allow my kids to be subjected to this. He felt his actions were justified, felt no remorse and was unable to empathize with how me or the kids felt. After all he had put me through- lying, cheating, repeatedly stealing money, abusing alcohol, drugs and me, being accused of sexual harassment in the Navy- I said, "If the roles were reversed you would have left years ago." He responded, “I don’t see how that matters. That’s a stupid argument. You just want to focus on the past.” He was unable to even self-reflect and put himself in my shoes. Classic narcissist. I was accused of not having feelings, because I had learned to ignore them as much as possible to protect myself. If I cried during an argument, I was being a baby and trying to manipulate him. If I didn't cry, I was cold and a robot.  

Narcissists will always be narcissists. Unless they become self-aware and undergo intensive therapy, which is extremely rare, they will continue to manipulate, deceive, abuse. They will never be at fault, always the victim. They cannot love anyone and will never understand what love truly is. They care only for themselves, are never satisfied, never truly happy. If you are stuck in a relationship with a narcissist, you too, will never be truly happy, until you are free. 


  1. I am one of the many this man has affected. He almost cost me my career and the abuse increased negatives in my mental health. We met in a gym and became friends. Then it turned into emotional neglect when he was upset or stressed or getting ready for a mission. And then sweet and nice to accusatory and emotionally abusive. Then he would blame everyone in and out of his life for all the problems he suffered. It was a cycle over and over and over. I could not attend job functions without being accused of infidelity or attention seeking. I ended up being referred to a mental health professional or suffer job consequences. He is a monster … I’m sorry for all of his children and the ladies he has affected. I suffer still but he doesn’t have his grips on my emotions or well being. I hope you find peace and serenity.


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