The devil really is in the detail……
by Sarah Tate
I’m currently reading Dark Souls by Sarah
Strudwick, and I’m struck by the blatant and brazen behavior of her
psychopathic ex, as described in the book. There were definite and
tangible ‘red flag’ moments for her which she chose, at that time, to ignore for a range of personal reasons
(mainly due to her past history of abuse and low self-esteem at the time she was in the
It struck me how very different our two exes were,
yet at the same time so very similar in their thought processes and behavior patterns. One is ‘in
your face’ the other a ‘slow burner’ but both are equally as dangerous.
In my own relationship, there were also a great many
red flags, but they were subtle enough for me to overlook at first. It wasn’t until
time had passed and they built up that they became more obvious. There were lies and inconsistencies in the stories
told to me, particularly relating to his past, but nothing that was so sensational, that it became instantly
unbelievable. It was gradual.
There was nothing brash, brazen, or remotely violent
about my experience. There was no anger, rarely a raised voice (from him) and at no point did I feel
threatened by, or scared of, him.
At the time I knew nothing about passive aggressive behavior
and I’d never heard of gaslighting, so I inevitably believed that many of the problems were
my own, and for the most part blamed myself for the persistent misery in which we lived.
When I look back now, I see my marriage to a
psychopath like being in a psychological slow cooker. The ingredients for disaster were all there
right from the very beginning, but it took time for the heat to really build up and the ensuing chaos to
erupt. Even when it did, he remained calm, distant, cold and unassuming. A
psychopath doesn’t need to be wielding his fists or a weapon to be dangerous. I feel that is a
I knew I was on the ‘burner’ from very early on
though. I could feel the heat building in the form of my own disquiet, and his growing distance and
ultimate distain. But the ‘light bulb moment’ only occurred at the very end when the whole world was crumbling
around my ears.
The first ‘moment’ (as I describe in
Web of Lies) came when he took money set aside to feed the children and booked a five star hotel to entertain his
new girlfriend in. When I confronted him about this, he told me he felt entitled to a ‘break’ in a lap of five
star luxury, despite the fact he knew we had no money to feed our kids. Upon realizing what he’d done, it
occurred to me for the first time that the man had serious psychological issues. I knew no normal parent could do that to their own children, so it had to be that he wasn’t
‘normal’. This was the first time I considered he might be mentally unstable.
The second ‘moment’ came after the split when he
seriously suggested we divide the children between us as though they were ornaments or assets of some
sort. In that moment, when he made the suggestion, I looked into his eyes and saw there was nothing
behind them. There was no ‘light’ there. And that’s when I knew I was dealing
with a person without feeling or conscience. A person who could not love, or be
After that, things started to finally fall into
place, as I began to arm myself with knowledge and get therapy for the damage created by years on the ‘slow
As Dr David Holmes recently said to me
about my books ;
important to realise that these people do not visit the doctors and be diagnosed. They have to be identified and
exposed by those close to them, which is hard, and anything that makes it easier will limit the damage
This is exactly why sites such
as this one are needed to help men and women in relationships with these people to spot the red flags, and enable
them to have their ‘light bulb moments’ before it’s too late. These men and women do not walk around with ‘I
am a psychopath’ written across their foreheads. Only by learning how to spot the signs, and sharing
our experiences, can we raise awareness of this problem in our society.
In some cases, these ‘light bulb moment’s come when
we recognize our own frailties and weak points, and realize that we have become a magnet for a certain type of
personality. Only by recognizing this in ourselves can we make the changes required to ensure
we never allow another one of these people into our lives.
In other cases (like mine) the devil is literally
hidden in the detail, and it can take time on the slow burner before we finally acknowledge and accept what we’re
dealing with. As I said, the psychopath does not need to necessarily be a physical threat to pose a
formidable danger to our well-being . The slow burners are equally as dangerous.