How To Identify Pathological Liars, Toxic, Controlling, Narcissistic Behavior; Sociopathic, Emotional Manipulators, Love-Bombing, Gaslighting, Dating An Older Man & Other Red Flags

Most of the advice and caution featured on this blog focuses on dating apps (profile, appearance, photos, wardrobe, posing, bios, communication, first dates etc.) but there is a glaring gap in providing additional tools to protect oneself against toxic, signs of manipulative behavior after people match, talk, meet and start dating.

It’s easy to filter and screen shirtless selfies, intense photos, crude text messages, sexual innuendos, lazy bios, cut and pasted pick-up lines etc. but once you get past those awkward and unwanted propositions and texts, that doesn’t mean one should let their guard down. There are master manipulators on dating sites that make a career out of swindling women or playing on their emotions.


Unacceptable Behavior From Boyfriend, Girlfriend

Men are usually on good behavior early on (in the honeymoon stage) but there are some important things to look out for when beginning to date or questioning some patterns when already in a relationship. This is particularly true where there is a large age gap and/or the woman is rather young or if the woman looks vulnerable (single, divorced, widowed, single parent, low self-esteem etc).

Here are some red flags, signs of manipulation and other troubled signs to look out for when dating or when in a relationship. Some of this is obvious behavior and some of this only becomes suspicious when it is coupled by other tactics. With all things in life, be sure to talk to friends, focus on your mental health and don’t depend on others for validation, self-worth.


Excessive Comments, Compliments -> Love-Bombing

Men who are quick to compliment you on physical beauty, looks, physique, body, youth etc. can be employing a tactic called love bombing. It’s a manipulation tactic whereby a person bombards the other with unusually high frequency of flattering compliments around looks. This is especially true if a guy can sense some insecurity, loneliness or doubt. Master manipulators are trained to identify such queues such as low self-esteem.

When it comes to dating older men, one unsettling set of compliments is focusing on youth and petite frame. Typically, men date younger women because women their own age no better than to put up with immature, childish behavior. A guy who only dates women much younger than him should be a warning to all women. Girls who are still in school, inexperienced dating or are new in town are prime targets for such men.

How do you know if a guy is just using you? Unfortunately you never quite know which is why it is recommended to move slowly, ask questions, spend time together meet each other’s friends and family, look at actions not just empty promises in relationships.


Moving Too Quickly After Matching, Meeting

Some guys like to move quickly whether it’s to hookup or to trap partners. By displaying compliments, making grand plans fairly early on during the dating process or communicating grand gestures i.e. You are the most beautiful woman I have dated, I could see us living together / getting married within 3 months or you are the girl of my dreams can seem welcoming but can be groundwork laid out to make you think he is committed or invested in this new relationship.

Words without time, effort, commitment, validation and trust are meaningless. If he say this to someone rather quickly, what makes you think you are the first one he has said this to?


Lack of Friends, Social Circles

Not everyone is a social butterfly. Not everyone has roots in the city they live in. Not everyone has an outgoing personality but if there is a pattern of hiding one’s past, dodging questions, discomfort with certain questions being asked, take note.

Anonymity within dating apps is a main reason to explain bad behavior but it also can be used to hide issues from others offline. A lack of social media presence, no phone calls or texts with friends are a couple ways to identify some possible red flags such as burnt bridges, inability to have any resemblance of a healthy relationship with a human being.


Red Flags In A Relationship: Isolation Tactics, Refusing To Meet With Others

A popular technique men use is isolation. This is done locally i.e only going on dates alone, refusing to meet friends and family, avoid social functions and being out in public. This could be for fear of running into an ex or avoiding social functions that require socializing, talking about one’s past, etc.

The more extreme version of this is suggesting to move or relocate to a remote area either small in size or away from anyone you might know. This is done to make it difficult for one to have a foundation, be independent, know others or feel comfortable. Much dependency is needed, possibly one that is based on wealth.

Divide and conquer is the objective with such individuals.


Signs of Manipulation In A Relationship: Wealth, Options & Creating Dependency

If someone suggest that the other person quit their job or relocate or that he can provide and take care of you, be on alert. Creating a financial dependency is one of the main tactics master manipulators deploy to reduce options in their partners.

A lack of money and resources is one of the main reasons why some women are unable to leave their abusive partners. In some cases, they will grant you credit cards, debit cards and cell phones to monitor activity, travel and contacts. Some countries make it extremely difficult to get divorces, get custody of kids or split assets fairly and evenly.


Lies, Lies, Lies: Signs Of Manipulation From Men: How To Spot A Narcissist

Lies are sometimes hard to catch. Professional liars have honed their skills for years. With that said, asking questions, requesting details and verifying stories goes a long way. If a person can’t trust their partner, that is already a red flag but a casual Google, Facebook search can reveal quite a bit. It’s not uncommon for people to mask lies with more and even bigger and more intricate lies. Always talk to others you trust for a gut check.


Age Differences, Difference In Maturity, Self-Awareness and Development

It’s one thing to be 8 years apart i.e. 39 and 31, it’s another thing to be 29 and 21. Some men target vulnerable, impressionable, inexperienced girls as they are viewed as easier targets. Some lies men tell women as to why they like younger women or don’t date women their age is that they are young, fit and want someone like them or because they are young at heart, or hard to keep up with.

In reality, women closer to their age are more experienced and know how to spot red flags more easily. They are more financially dependent, more emotionally secure and have developed roots and friendships. Girls who are new to a city, are in debt, don’t know anyone can be more susceptible to older men. It’s not uncommon for men to be constantly rejected women closer to their age who are smarter, more aware of tactics and call them out on their shit.


Extreme Emotional Patterns, Volatility and Apologies

It’s one thing to have ups and downs, it’s another thing to psychologically abuse another human being by tearing them down and building them up. Criticizing your lifestyle, simple choices and life decisions is one way men can bring down women in a relationship. If this is coupled by an immediate build up and repeat pattern, beware.

This classic manipulation tactic is rather dangerous as it provides momentary relieve in a rather toxic relationship. Some guys might go 180 and become emotionally distant if confronted and blame things on you and make you feel like the way you are treating them makes them the victim vs you. Keep you guard up but be open.


Controlling Relationship Red Flags: Intellectual Blaming

Placing blame and referencing lack of experience, age, maturity are ways manipulators prey on victims. Claiming things are not as they seem or done in a particular manner is a classic excuse.

Constantly attributing mistakes to age, life experience and knowledge is something to take note of. If something seems off or doesn’t make sense, talk to friends and family or seek out unbiased help from a therapist or mental health professional. Often times these people will do anything to cut you off from others.


Gaslighting: Emotional Guilt Trips, Sowing Doubt

The classic example guys use to place a guilt on women is to blame women for their actions by stating the reason they did X or Y is that they thought they would lose them, or they were neglected or thought things were over between them. Flipping the tables and placing blame when being accused of something is an obvious signal of using one of these psychological tactics.

Downplaying your problems while playing up their problems is another way people try to shift blame in a relationship. One common phrase awful people use is “no one’s gonna love you”. It’s a pathetic attack to use when someone is being attached.


Toxic Manipulative Relationships: Emotional Blackmail, Harrassment

Threatening to release private information to the public in the event of a break up. Related to threat of self-inflicted hurt (threatening to hurt oneself if the partner leaves him or her). These items are usually videos of sexual activities, photos of nude or suggestive poses, texts and private messages about jobs, careers, colleagues, churches or community-related involvement.


Manipulative Boyfriend Signs: Ultimatums, Threats & All Or Nothing

If someone uses the line i.e. you’ll never meet someone at your age, you’ll never find someone who loves or takes care of you like I do, take note. Never accept ultimatums or threats. Relationships take effort, work, compromise. Threatening to leave is never a good look and is a sign that the other person is using the stick (carrot vs the stick) approach to keep you around and suggest things will be worse off withouth them to support you, love you or make you feel unlovable.


Talks About Exes, Badmouths People In Their Lives

Someone who talks about their exes in a condescending manner or compares their current partner to their ex is not normal. Occasionally something might slip in conversation but regularly comparing partners or criticizing them is a sign of immaturity at best, at worst a sign of negative behavior. This is sometimes done to build sympathy for them so that you think you are a person they can trust and never be let down. It’s too much pressure to put on people, especially early on.


Manipulative Husband Signs: Manners In Public vs Private, With You vs Others

Observing social behavior and reactions in public is a great way to learn about someone. Uncontrolled environments outside the home or alone require a skill set that signals maturity, character and empathy. Driving on the road, walking by homeless people, interactions with servers, hanging out with kids, talking to drivers, interactions with baristas are all simple, every day ways to observe how someone reacts to uncertainty, strangers and spontaneous events.


Difficult Situations: Arguments Are Personal, Are Avoided

No honest relationship is without its ups and downs. There will be times for difficult conversations. People show their true colors when things get tough. Avoid confrontation, pretending situations don’t exist or attacking someone vs. addressing the issues at hand are ways guys try to get the upper hand. Relationships require compromise, listening, patience, discussions and engagement.


Deleting Dating Apps, Profiles To Prove Commitment

Some people will take the steps to illustrate they are interested and focused on a relationship with you. This might go beyond words and public displays of affection and include deleting apps and dating profiles. Take these actions with a grain of salt.

Deleting profile after one date can be an example of a love-bombing tactic or someone who is rather lonely, lacks emotional IQ or lacks dating experience. Deleting the app after a period of time doesn’t mean the account was deleted, the person has another phone or that the person has another account on another app. Don’t view these purposeful, target acts in isolation. Observe behavior, communication, consistency, public actions, as well as timing, patience, and queues from those around you.


How To Find Out If Your Boyfriend, Man, Husband Is On A Dating Site

Some apps like Bumble let a person go Incognito so that their profile is invisible to others. For guys who are in a relationship or married, this is an easy way to cover up tracks. Payments are usually handled via credit card, apple pay or google wallet. Creating a fake profile and using travel mode to view profiles is one way to catch said cheaters.


How To Spot A Married Man On A Dating App, Why Would A Married Man Join A Dating Site

If they guy travels a lot, doesn’t spend holidays with you, doesn’t have social media, doesn’t like you taking photos and posting to social media or only likes to take you on secluded dates that are not public, take those as red flags. Guys don’t use dating apps to make friends nor network. 


Final Thoughts

Relationships take work. Things are never perfect but understanding what is acceptable and ok take awareness, social circles, research and communication.

It takes two people to make relationships grow and prosper. It takes one person to ruin a relationship. Don’t ignore red flags. Don’t enter relationships looking to fill a void or to avoid being lonely. Master manipulators know how to target vulnerable targets i.e. divorcees, lack of friends, single parents, depression, lack of self-esteem, loneliness and more.


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About Eddie Hernandez

Eddie Hernandez is a dating consultant & professional photographer based in San Francisco, servicing clients in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and beyond as featured in the NYTimes, SFGate, ABC7News, East Bay Express, Salon; contributor to Good Men Project, Plenty Of Fish and Meddle.

In addition to photos, he provides guidance around app choice, bio optimization, messaging techniques, wardrobe advice, date planning, screening profiles, ID'ing red flags, offline techniques for meeting people organically, naturally. 

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