Have you ever wondered why some people get away with things and others don’t?
From what I’ve seen, the more dishonest someone is, the more they seem to get away with bad behavior of some sort.
When an honest person tries to get away with immoral or unethical behavior, they are often caught in the act and have to pay the price. Of course, you might say, “If they’re trying to get away with something, that doesn’t make them very honest then, does it?”
You may be right!
But I’m referring to a career con artist rather than the opportunistic con artist. The career con artist is one who has no problem lying to anyone to get what they want. They get very good at the game and most people will be fooled by their deceptive behavior. They have been honing their skills for many years.
The opportunistic con artist is the person who probably follows the rules more often than not, but is presented with an opportunity to con or steal and decides to act on it.
The opportunistic con artist doesn’t usually have a chance of getting away with something. They are such amateurs at the game that they are not going to be able to effectively cover all their tracks and will likely get caught – like this guy who chose to wear a clear plastic bag on his head as a disguise when he was trying to steal someone’s stuff!
Then there are people who’ve played the con game for so long that they trick everyone. They are that good. They are like concert pianists who make no mistakes because they live, eat, and breathe their craft. Career con artists know the rest of us so well, they fool most of us easily and effortlessly.
Take this guy for example. He walks around a store taking anything he wants and the owners are oblivious to his behavior. He took their inventory right under their noses.
I’ve worked with some clients that are married to relationship con artists. Their stories are often the same:
“I felt like I met my soulmate. I was showered with compliments and gifts. We would talk about our future and I fell for him / her fast. We dated a few months then moved in together. It was a dream come true. Then one day…”
The “then one day” comment is usually the moment they saw their new partner’s true colors. From there, their stories often sound like this:
• “…then one day, they got upset that I wanted to go see my mom for the weekend.”
• “…then one day, they made a comment about my weight.”
• “…then one day, they acted jealous that I wanted to spend time with my friends.”
There are probably a thousand more I could list. But the formula is the same:
Everything was great until it wasn’t.
It’s not that normal relationships don’t experience that type of shift too, but when you’re dealing with a relationship con artist, you will a vast night and day difference.
They show up in the beginning meeting your every need and making you believe they want to fulfill every desire you have. They put you through a “grooming” and “conditioning” process. You get groomed into loving and trusting someone that plans to turn against you after they know you are loyal to them.
They make you believe they are kind, supportive, and loving. You get conditioned into believing that they are really there for you and have your best interest in mind.
In other words, they make you believe in things that aren’t true. They make you believe they are unselfish and just want you to be happy.
The relationship con is a dirty game. And unfortunately, there are a lot of people who play it. However, you don’t have to be conned. When you know what to look for, you increase your chances of catching the con in the act.
This isn’t only about new relationships, it’s about life in general. When you do your best to follow an ethical and moral path in life, you don’t normally see the con artists. After all, it’s very difficult to see someone you’ve never been. It’s hard to spot behavior you’re unfamiliar with.
This is why innocent people end up suffering at the hands of con artists. The cons only go after the innocents who don’t know the game.
But you don’t have to be the victim of con artistry. In the area of relationships, all you need to do is follow a few simple rules:
1. Don’t fall in love fast
When your needs and desires are met really quickly, use that as an orange flag. Pay attention to your emotions to make sure you aren’t opening your heart so much that they have access to all the “controls”, so to speak.
If you’re in a con, it’s a lot more difficult to get out of it after you fall in love.
2. Don’t ignore the first red flag
This is probably the most common mistake I hear from my clients in toxic relationships. Their partner did something a bit unusual or uncharacteristic near the beginning that they chose to ignore.
When your new partner does behavior that makes you think, “Hmm… that’s different / strange / a little over the top / etc“, or they make you feel bad about yourself in some way, that is the time to turn on your radar to make sure you aren’t seeing the first signs of a toxic pattern.
3. Say “no” every now and then and see how they react
You don’t have to do everything together all the time. You don’t have to bring them everywhere. See how they respond when you show autonomy and independence. Do they support your happiness in the direction you want to go? Do they support your decisions, or try to change them?
I’ve often found true character is discovered when someone doesn’t get what they want. You can learn a lot about a person when they don’t get their way. The con wants agreement and compliance so when they don’t get it, they’re very likely to do something that either causes you to fall into compliance or make you feel guilty that you didn’t.
Be aware when someone tries to steer you off a path you want to take for yourself. It might be a form of control.
Obviously, these aren’t the only rules, but they are important when it comes to your mental health and happiness.
Again, Take Love Slow.
Don’t let red flags slip under the radar, and learn who they are when they don’t get what they want. This combination will give you a lot more insight into what type of relationship is developing.
My definition of love is when you support the other person’s path to happiness, even if their path doesn’t align with what you want. Most people want to be with others that support their path to happiness so it’s usually a win-win for a couple that does that for each other.
Love grows and the bond strengthens when someone supports you wanting to be yourself.
Letting your partner know that you aren’t there to control who they love nor tell them what they need to do with their life gives them the choice to love you more than anyone else on the planet.
That’s the beauty of letting someone live their life the way they want. They feel more free to be themselves and more connected to the person who lets them do that.
I think we all want to be trusted to make decisions that we feel are right for us. When people we love allow us to do that, we will feel safer, more trusting, and more connected to them.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you missed all the manipulative or controlling behavior of a relationship con artist. Some people have been at the relationship con game for a long time. Not seeing the red flags shows that you are probably an honest person with good intentions.
Unfortunately, honest people do get conned. It’s a fact. It’s how the con plays the game.
But don’t con yourself into believing someone else’s con when you notice orange and red flags. Dismissing those highlights the biggest con game of all: The one that takes place in your own mind.
- We want to believe we’re wrong about the other person.
- We want to believe they are better than that.
- We think that perhaps we are mistaken about them.
- We relabel bad behavior to justify bad intentions.
And we hold on to the hope that they will see what they are doing to us so they will feel bad and stop that bad behavior.
When we want and hope like this, we stay in their game. We con ourselves! And that is dangerous because when you go into denial about someone else’s bad behavior, you will dismiss it and hope it doesn’t happen again.
The relationship con artist isn’t going to wear a clear plastic bag on their head allowing us to identify them easily. It’s important to keep your wits about you instead of getting swept away with hope.
It is healthy for an emotional connection to take time.
When you take love slow, you pay attention. You are more observant and careful. It’s not about being paranoid, it’s about caring so much for your own well-being that you won’t allow anyone to take advantage of you. It’s self-nurturing 101.
Taking love slow means you get to see who the person is at every stage of the relationship. It’s not about testing them, it’s about building trust and love one day at a time. You don’t want con artists slipping in under the radar, you want someone who will meet your criteria for a healthy relationship.
Allowing your emotions toward others to take more time helps you become discerning so that you create the best relationship possible.
A good relationship takes work.
A great relationship takes a lot of self-awareness, self-love, and self-care.
When you are discerning, you assess and reassess what’s best for you every step of the way which is probably the best self-care you could ever give. The relationship you have with yourself is the key to creating amazing relationships with other people.
Con artists will come and go, but they won’t last long when they realize you can see their true colors and that you care enough about yourself to show them that their behavior is unacceptable. And since con artists don’t like to be caught, they won’t want to hang around those who can see right through them.
You are amazing and deserve to be treated with love and respect. Don’t fall for the con. You can fall in love, just don’t let love blind you to behaviors that aren’t in your best interest.
I will need to share my story when it is safe and my divorce and child custody case is final. My story will support your advice and I can provide in depth examples of gaslighting and triggering once the grooming and conditioning phase was over. Once I found out and reported it..the gaslighting I had experienced over the years lived up to its name and prevented me from getting support and because it was so well implemented I was deemed paranoid and temporarily lost custody of my son. I am still fighting for it and at this point my son is all I care about getting back. That’s all I can share at the moment but I can tell you she is a pro and career con artist and I lost everything. My son, my business, my friends, my pets, my home, a good reputation and positive name recognition, my credit, a lot of money and my sense of self worth. I appreciate you helping other folks avoid this curse and I want to do the same. 18 years..
🙁 so sorry you experienced this. Yes, when it is safe to share your story I know it will help others. Sometimes it seems that our own challenges are what others need to learn from so that they don’t experience the same fate. That can be a sense purpose out of all this chaos you’re experiencing. I wish you much strength and healing through this. Thank you so much for sharing here.
For me the red flag is how I feel when I am around that person. Relaxed? Confident? Accepted? Supported? Listened to? ATTRACTIVE?
Those are the very feelings my con-artist “boyfriend” exploited six months ago when he showered me with attention. I was just moving into a new apartment and he offered to be my “mule,” help lug boxes and tires. That was welcome. In doing so he would place his hand on my shoulders, back of my neck. Hmm, I thought, this is weird, he doesn’t even know me but it feels good so why not? Then he graduated to “keep an old man company,” “we’re going to do a lot of things together,” shared everything we said and did with his grown daughter (again, Hmmm, I wish he wouldn’t), even went out early in the morning and brushed the snow off my car – several times! (Gee, why is he doing all this? It’s like an old-fashioned courtship.)
Brought me breakfast in bed when I was down with a cold. “That’s why God made women, for men to take care of them.” Watched for me to get home safely on snowy nights from work. Long conversations to learn more about me and share his own stories, that bared my soul and definitely brought me under his influence because I was so vulnerable sharing them and he seemed so understanding. We talked about values, things we enjoyed in common. He seemed to know a lot about psychology although he was a workingman, never went to college.
Everything seemed friendly, open and spontaneous.
But I now think he was just taking every opportunity to size me up.
The beginning of the end was sex. He couldn’t get it up when we cuddled normally, and then he moved to elaborate erotic scenarios. The penis does not lie!!!
All along he made loud comments that pointed to me being a social retard. I didn’t have enough sexual experience, I didn’t know (or he thought I didn’t know) what certain things were all about, how things were supposed to go. And he was right. I am not a low-life! But according to the profile of demure innocence he was developing for me, I couldn’t possibly understand him and his desires. That’s when I started hearing about his sexploits all the way through the army, through his marriage, into now when a certain woman called him up. I asked him if she offered to sleep with him would he? He had no answer, just that he didn’t like her gossipy chatter.
Sex with him was a no-touch business. He could touch me any way he wanted but I was not allowed to touch, speak, or even look at him. I would have helped him with his “problem” but I was not asked to. Instead, he masturbated afterwards.
So in retrospect, I think I see now that even though he could be the warm, attentive, loving, kind and generous man I thought he was, he was basically test-driving me, like an audition for a part in a play. He was curious about me, but only up to a point. He appeared open to a point, but quite self-aggrandizing in many ways that were obviously immature but he was a natural performer, entertaining. Only later did I feel it was a form of foreplay.
He pointblank refused to meet my friends, and it seemed he didn’t have any. A younger man I know said it sounded like he didn’t want to be seen with me. Another red flag.
But all the while I was coming into his orbit and being conditioned to view the relationship through his eyes.
One thing he did early on was belittle me, with my social naivete but also he built a picture of me as timid, gullible, and pitiable because I didn’t resemble his grown daughters – who of course were raised by him to be a certain way!
Again, I didn’t take it seriously because my friends would certainly not describe me in those terms, but nevertheless it cut into me.
Cheap wine and marijuana didn’t help. He is an addict of marijuana, so I decided to join him in a few joints (after literally decades of ignoring the stuff). He bragged about getting me drunk and taking me to “places you have never gone before” sexually.
But the entire time, his rule was that it was his way or the highway, and he stated it explicitly. When the breakup came today, he said he had told me to leave him alone repeatedly. But at the same time he invited me in.
There again, I could still see the wonderful persona he had presented at the beginning, so I did everything he told me to — including, finally, not even visiting him in the evenings because he needed his alone time and I took up space in his one-bedroom apartment. When he would kick me out at midnight I treated it like a joke. Then he would go into “one of his moods” and become incommunicado for several days. I couldn’t tell when was the right time to knock on the door. He claimed he didn’t know how to program his phone so he could return text messages. He slept on a chaotic schedule and basically spent the entire winter either “sleeping” or binge-watching tv – explicitly without me.
I started believing he was really messed up and even though I didn’t believe that I could or should “rescue” him I did try to offer him cheer.
So – Are we having fun yet?
But never, never, use the L-word no matter how deeply you feel it. I thought I had known that from other relationships that crashed and burned. Except his Valentine’s card was the loveliest expression of love I have ever received.
Today he finally told me to stay out of his life because I happened to follow him down the hall on my way to my car. He returned the intimate things I had left in his apartment, put them outside my door. Of course, I could have reminded him it was HE who invited me into HIS life and it was HE who once said, feel free to come in anytime, you can leave clothes here if you want.
I feel kind of sad until I list the warning flags. The key turning point that I started to write about was HOW I FELT when I was with him. Bored, uneasy, stupid, weak, despicable like the sluts and dealers he hangs out with downtown.
I am 73 yo. He is 73 yo. Pretty messed up boy. Would I have picked him out of a crowd? No. Should I mention he is a Vietnam vet, although he never was in combat?
Thank you so much for sharing this Julia. Sounds like you were put through the ringer. This almost sounds more like a personality disorder, not that I’m qualified to call it that, but with the bipolarity of his odd and sometimes bizarre behavior, it sounds like this is who he is and he won’t change.
In fact, accept that he’ll never change and always be this way, and you won’t get fooled into thinking anything better will come from him. He isn’t capable. Hopefully he is getting help, but it sounds like he doesn’t believe he has a problem.
I hope you are in a better place today. You shouldn’t have to be dealing with this at 73! Life isn’t getting any longer, so when the red flags come up, it’s okay to say “See ya, don’t want that in my life. Call me when you grow up” and be okay being alone so that you make space for those that deserve it.
I appreciate you. Thank you again for sharing your story here.
After reading your comment, it makes me wonder if sexual perversion runs parallell with con men/grifters. Through my 25 years of being in a con man marriage, my ex husband cheated over and over. I would always overlook and forgive him, make mental excuses for him in my mind and in my heart. (Bless his heart, he suffered such an abusive childhood from his mother….) however, very, very rarely did we have sex and when we did, he would try to talk me into doing porno things, to which I would not do. It’s been almost 5 years since I filed for divorce and yet I still hurt and am angered at myself for being such a fool for all of these years. I hope you have been able to overcome this type of mental, physical abuse. It’s something that i am still working on and praying for.
I think sexual perversion is very much in alignment with other behaviors that some people do when they choose not to express what’s truly going on in their heads. For example, emotional abusers often won’t share their vulnerabilities with others so they hurt others instead of feeling vulnerable. Those afraid of confronting people because of boundary issues may take drugs, drink, or gamble as a way to deal with their repressed pain or anger. Those who are insecure with sex may turn to perversions or porn. Those who have certain sexual fantasies that they don’t want to tell others can lead to more perverse behaviors in order to get their desires met, but they don’t want to share what those desires are with others.
There could be a number of reasons why someone might be more perverse in the sex department. But you could be on to something in the sense where the compulsive person might do more behaviors that many people might find unusual or even unhealthy.
If you’ve not gone no-contact yet, that is a great start to healing because once the toxic person is out of the picture for good, your head will start to get clearer and you’ll start having thoughts without his influence.
After having gone thru a 25 year marriage to a con man, and an adulterer (now divorced) . a grifter, and having a child together, he will pop back into my life periodically, using the “reason” that he needs to talk with me is about our son. He will show small acts if kindness just enough to make me think, well maybe ges changed, or maybe I can help him to change. After reading this article, I see how I allowed myself to open my heart, time and time again, to only be conned over and over. The financial aspect, him telling me how he wants to change from his immoral ways, needs my help, the I still love you routine, etc. Only you understand me…. saying how he has suffered so much,….oh my gosh, this article fits this con man grifter to a “T”. How could I have been such a fool,? This article has opened my eyes. It’s time to close my heart.
Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m sorry you had to deal with a person like this. It shows you are kind-hearted and compassionate and yes, probably have given him too much benefit of the doubt. But it also sounds like you are now stronger than ever to never let that happen to you again. I wish you much strength for any healing you need to do through this.
Thank you so much. It’s one day at a time with heavy prayer, to hold onto my strength. Can you recommend any books that might help me overcome the heartache and anger at myself for allowing this emotional control and my anger towards him for continually trying to control ? Also, why do I feel like it’s my duty and responsibility to help him? I feel most especially obligated to help him walk in a moral life, sexually, as he is into pornography, which is degrading and repulsive to me. Unfortunately, he recently relocated back near me. I cant even go to the local Wal Mart without having to pass his apartment. Sure enough, hes “hooked up” with a woman that he met at a local motel recently where he was staying until he found an apartment and she is now staying nights with him at his apartment Boy oh boy, such a slick talker. I have always heard that actions speak louder than words. His true colors are coming out, left and right. They are just hard for me to handle emotionally.
I think even being able discuss this bondage situation that my emotions are in, is a step in the right direction toward healing.
Again, I thank you for any further advice you may have for me.
Have you listened to my podcast Love and Abuse? That would be a great start for you if not. A lot of what you’re explaining I talk about over there.
If you are no longer doing joint custody or your son is now an adult, it’s probably time to go no contact. For some reason, you know way too much about his life, which keeps you enmeshed in the abuse cycle. If your son is old enough, then all messages from your ex-husband can either come through him or perhaps you don’t need to talk with him at all.
One of the biggest challenges for kind and supportive people like yourself is breaking free from wanting to help. The problem with helping hurtful people is that they don’t help themselves because there’s no reason to do so if someone is always there to help them out.
He takes advantage of the fact that you have trouble saying no to helping him and he knows you can’t turn off your compassion, so he uses it against you.
No contact is the way to go with someone like this. Block at every turn, not because he’s a danger (which he is emotionally at least), but because you may be a person that has trouble turning your attention away from someone you believe is in need.
However, your ex is an adult and he is making adult decisions. He can get along just fine without you. From my experience, the only way people like this change is when everyone turns their back on them and stops enabling their behavior. Once that happens, they finally realize that in order to improve their relationships, they need to improve themselves.
That can and does happen. But it almost never happens if they know all they have to do is tell you they miss you and life isn’t enjoyable without you. They know that will get you every time.
If your son is still young and you share custody, learn about the gray rock method. That is where you turn off your emotional responses and become like a dull, gray rock that doesn’t give him any emotions to read and feed off of, then use them against you. Don’t give fuel to the fire.
Make all your communication email or text only, and never on the phone. He already knows how to play the game with you and knows exactly what to say to keep you engaged in his manipulation. You need to protect yourself and see yourself as worthy and too important to allow toxic people like that into your psyche and heart. You already have the evidence that he doesn’t change, now all you need to do is follow through by protecting yourself from his manipulation and control.
If you really want to test his feelings for you, this is all you do:
Say “no” and mean it. When he begs, say, “Nope. Not going to happen.”
And mean it. And stick with it.
When you do this to someone who only wants what he wants and doesn’t care about you, you’ll get the opposite of love and support.
In other words, someone who loves and supports you is going to honor your “no”. They’re going to see it as a strength in you and will love that you are honoring yourself.
The manipulator will see that as losing the game they are playing with you. In The MEAN Workbook, I talk about all the responses you’ll get when you say no to a manipulative person who really doesn’t care about you at all but just wants you to do what they want you to do.
You’ll hear all kinds of things like:
“You’re a bad mother and our children hate you”
“Do you really think you’re going to get anyone else at your age?”
“You’ve gained so much weight. Do you anyone else but me could love you?”
“You’ve always been a bitch. I never really loved you anyway.”
And a LOT more.
Once the relationship con artist learns that they won’t get their way, their true colors come out.
Someone who loves and supports you is going to say, “Are you sure? Okay, I respect your decision.”
Then they’ll leave you alone. They won’t come back and try to convince you of anything. They’ll actually leave you alone! But the con artist always returns because they want what they want regardless of what you want.
I don’t know if any of this helps, but I hope you are able to focus on your own life, block yourself in every possible way from his, and move on because you have so much to offer other people that will actually care about you and honor and respect you.
Thank you for sharing this. I wish you much strength and healing moving forward.
I met a professional con-artist on a dating app. She lied to me about who she was and then got me arrested for harassment, when she was the one who was harassing me. She’s a pathetic excuse for anyone with morals. Wherever she is, she needs to let go of her mental illness.
This sounds like the typical manipulator: They blame you for what they’re doing to you to deflect your attention off of them and onto yourself. So sorry you had to go through this. Some people simply don’t have or choose not to access their morals. Accountability is required for people like that. Sometimes they get it, and sometimes they don’t. Thanks for sharing this.