Review of Donna Andersen’s Red Flags of Love Fraud: Information and Insight

Red Flags of Love Fraud

Donna Andersen, the author of Love Fraud the book  and the website/support group Lovefraud.com, has recently published a new book, called Red Flags of Love Fraud: Ten Signs You’re Dating a Sociopath, which I’d highly recommend for anyone who suspects (or knows) they are with a pathological individual. Psychopaths are extremely dangerous because they lack a heart and conscience but they camouflage that fundamental lack so well. They construct a “mask of sanity” by lying to others and hiding their real motives and identities. With their extraordinary glibness and charm, they come on strong to their potential victims, love bombing them, flattering them, mirroring their interests and personalities–essentially, seducing them–then use them for their selfish and malicious purposes. Since they can’t bond emotionally with others and have no conscience, there’s no limit to the devastation they can cause in people’s lives. Experts estimate that between 1 and 4 percent of the population is psychopathic. Since psychopaths are very sociable and promiscuous, this means that millions of psychopaths in this country alone adversely affect hundreds of millions of lives.

As its title suggests, Red Flags of Love Fraud teaches victims and the general public how to recognize the red flags of the psychopathic bondwhich are far from obvious in the beginning. This book draws upon Donna’s own personal experience (she was married for several years to a psychopathic conman and bigamist named James Montgomery); testimonials and research from lovefraud.com readers (conducted with her lovefraud partner, Dr. Liane Leedom), and–last but not least–a lot of her own analyses of psychopathic behavior and insights about the mindset of victims.

Most books about psychopathy focus primarily on explaining what this personality disorder is, the list of symptoms of the psychopath, and persuading readers why it’s very important to get away from such pathological individuals and establish no contact. This information is essential to what I’d call the first phase of escaping the psychopathic bond: realizing you’ve been conned, emotionally and/or financially, by a dangerous social predator and understanding his pathology. Donna’s book does this as well, with characteristic clarity and conciseness. She also includes anecdotes by victims telling their life experiences which make her book that much more interesting and offer concrete examples that readers can relate to.

But  as a professional writer myself, I’d say that the most distinctive feature of Red Flags of Love Fraud is the quality of the writing, both in content and form. Donna’s writing is well-documented and informed, engaging and psychologically insightful. Insight is when a writer manages to probe deep within, to explain analytically what may be only a vague intuition in the minds of readers. Good writing encourages readers to explore  their psyches, motivations and lives. Insight and introspection are especially important for victims of psychopaths.

It’s not enough to identify the traits of psychopaths and see how they behave and how they manage to manipulate and use us. Victims must also be able to look within in order to recognize some of the qualities and patterns of behavior that left them vulnerable to psychopathic seduction in the first place, so that it won’t happen again. This process isn’t about assuming responsibility for all the evil things the psychopaths did, which are unjustifiable and inexcusable. It’s about owning our power of discretion and choice in the future in seeing that, at least to some extent, we also had it in the past. There were red flags in the relationship early on that we chose to minimize or ignore. This book urges us to explore the reasons why we did that.

To offer an important example, one of the most common way psychopaths initially lure victims, Donna explains, is by a combination of 1) love bombing and flattery; 2) persistence, and 3) mirroring our identities and values, to reveal (a false) sense of compatibility. Love bombing is a process commonly used by cults, such as the Moonies, in the initial phases of attracting new members. It’s highly effective for cults–that are often run by psychopathic leaders–and it works just as well for individual psychopathic seducers.

Donna not only explains each strategy used by the psychopath, but also insightfully analyzes the reasons behind victim response. Love bombing is effective because unless you’re very famous, rich or some kind of celebrity, this kind of over-the-top attention is very rare. Few people are likely to tell you you’re the smartest, most attractive, most accomplished person in the world: first of all because you’re not; secondly because it’s rare to encounter another human being who appreciates you so completely. During the luring or idealization phase, therefore, psychopaths often set themselves apart from other people you’ve dated or befriended through a wooing and romancing that borders on worship.

They are also highly persistent, sometimes persevering for years until they catch and hook you emotionally.  Only once you’re emotionally invested in them they gradually–or, in some cases, abruptly–drop the pretense of love and begin the devaluation and abusePersistence pays off, Donna elaborates, because people tend to associate it with love and commitment. If someone persists in proclaiming their love and pursuing us for month after month, or sometimes even year after year, we’re likely to believe that it’s because they truly care about us. Why else would anyone waste so much energy on a romantic pursuit? As far as psychopaths are concerned, the answer, unfortunately, is because they want power and control.

Psychopaths engage in a game-like hunt or pursuit of the individuals they momentarily desire, hyperfocusing on them like predators upon their prey. That’s also why they commonly engage in cyberstalking and stalking, both before and after a relationship is over. Sometimes, the more you evade their grasp, the more interesting the hunt becomes for them. But they never pursue victims because they love or care about them. Their persistence is about the pleasure of the hunt, to possess, consume and destroy their prey.

When you examine, as this book does, both the psychopath’s behavior and the predispositions and vulnerabilities that led you into this dangerous game, you are more likely not only to recognize the red flags of pathological relationships, but also the qualities that predisposed you to ignore them. Knowledge is a process of acquiring  accurate information and processing it with insightRed Flags of Love Fraud offers both information and insight. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to learn how to identify the danger signs in others as well as to confront the vulnerabilities within. You can purchase this book on Donna Andersen’s lovefraud website, on the link below.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

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Why Do Sociopaths Waste (Our) Time?

In reading Donna Andersen‘s book Love Fraud, I was struck by how much time  and energy her sociopathic ex-husband spent inventing phony business schemes which were doomed to failure. Given his intelligence, charisma and powers of persuasion, he could have created enough successful businesses to last him several lifetimes. But he chose not to create a single successful business venture during his predatory scams of so many trusting and loving partners. So the question arises: Why? Why do sociopaths waste (our) time?

The main answer I’ve given before is that sociopaths don’t have any constructive goals in life. On the contrary, they aim to destroy people and their lives however they can: emotionally, physically and sometimes also financially. Their behavior fits into a pattern that destroys human life and its meaning largely by wasting our time. Nearly everyone I’ve talked to who has been involved with a sociopath expresses one main regret: I wasted my life, for x number of months or years, on a fantasy, on a total fraud.

The feelings of “love” a sociopath expresses are never real. At best, they express need for you (or, more precisely, for using you for their purposes) or sexual desire. The  so-called “truths” a sociopath shares with you are largely lies or manipulative bits of truth, intended to sway you in some way that serves his purposes. Often a sociopath will invest an enormous amount of time and energy to construct a web of lies. He will repeat to you the same false information, to lead you to believe that he’s trustworthy; that he shares your life goals; that he loves you. He will even get others to corroborate those lies or half-truths. He will pretend to be interested in your interests. Not only that, but he will mirror you consistently enough and for a long enough period of time to gain your trust. He will sometimes go so far as to ingratiate himself with your family and friends, to gain their confidence as well. He will also take great pains, for as long as you’re useful to him, to hide his bad behavior, including the cheating, web of lies, crimes and/or financial scams. He will put in his best effort to brainwash you into accepting his false version of reality. Even the energy sociopaths invest in demeaning their targets is enormous, given that to be effective they do it gradually, insult by insult, demand by demand, over time. If they became abusive upfront and at once, their victims would be much more likely to be shocked by the mistreatment and reject them.

Because they find no inherent meaning in human life–no higher purpose, no real feelings of loyalty and love–sociopaths perceive life as an empty stretch of time that they must somehow fill up with diversions, schemes and games at other people’s expense. Even most sociopaths who are well-educated and intelligent waste their natural abilities and their lives, on playing constant mind games, pursuing a string of vacuous and ultimately unsatisfying sexual relationships, manipulation, and often pointless deceit. Sociopaths lie to attain their short-term goals, of course. But they also lie when it doesn’t serve any obvious useful purpose, just for the fun of it. Deception fills their empty lives with sadistic entertainment and ephemeral pleasure. As Janis Joplin sings in Me and Bobby McGee, for them “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” In that sense, sociopaths are free.

Normal people, however, have everything to lose in becoming involved with sociopaths. For us, time is very precious and life is not something to be wasted. It’s filled with positive desires and goals, with the meaning we find in fulfilling emotional bonds with those we care about, with what we can accomplish for both ourselves and others. Because of the vast difference in our concepts of time, a sociopath has nothing to lose in engaging in empty diversions while we have nothing to gain from them. This is why victims involved with sociopathic predators describe their time together as wasted time: as months or even years that can never be recaptured and were essentially thrown away. Most sociopaths don’t commit actual murder. Wasting our time with their lies, intimidation tactics, manipulation and mind games is the most common way in which sociopaths waste our lives.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Review of Donna Andersen’s Love Fraud: The Book and the Website

In December 2007, I was reeling from a mixture of pain, confusion and relief that I had barely escaped an unmitigated disaster. I had nearly left a wonderful husband of 15 years for a man who initially seemed to be my dream come true–charming, sensual, romantic, cultured, caring and attentive–but turned out to be a social predator. There were plenty of red flags in my year-long relationship with him: such as the confession that he had been a sex addict many years earlier; the puzzling fact that he had lied for years to his parents about working at an escort service when in reality he had an honorable job; the unsettling fact that he relished telling me about his previous lies and sexual exploits and how much he had cheated on his fiancée (who later became his wife); the ease with which I witnessed him lie to his wife on the phone with elaborate stories that he made up on the spot. Rather than being embarrassed by lying, strangely, he appeared to relish the deception.

But, then again, obviously I wasn’t perfect either.  I chose to violate my own marriage vows and to overlook all these disturbing details to focus instead on this man’s constant declarations of love; his reassurances that he was no longer in love with his wife and that I was the true love of his life; and his over-the-top affection and plans for our happy future together which, of course, included my two kids. But even these plans were a subject of contention between us, since from the beginning my lover pressured me to divorce my husband to marry him. Despite being in love with him, I had serious reservations about breaking up my marriage with a husband I still cared about for someone I knew only in the context of a long distance affair who had already admitted to me that hadn’t been faithful to any other woman in his life.  To dispel my doubts, he kept reassuring me that I was special: the woman he had been looking for his entire adult life and his soul mate.

Everything began to unravel between us once I relented to his constant pressure and asked my husband for a divorce. Then my lover instantly cut out the pretense of being a caring, cajoling and romantic partner. His behavior became demanding, controlling and, quite frankly, bizarre. After pressuring me for a year to marry him, as soon as I gave in, he began to withdraw his commitment. At one point, he brazenly suggested that we post ourselves on a dating website. It then became clear to me that the hot pursuit was only a game for him and that juggling women, under the pretense of offering true love, was how he occupied his time and entertained himself. I realized that this guy was not simply promiscuous, but also a pathological liar and predatory in his designs. Destroying women and, as an added bonus, also their families was how he got his jollies. His wife and family may have accepted and even idolized this man for how he was, but I wasn’t about to put up with such flagrant mistreatment. I promptly ended the relationship with him. My husband and I began the process of rebuilding our marriage and family life, which had been damaged but not destroyed by the affair.

My first step in recovering was to google the symptoms manifested by my lover: including pathological lying, manipulation and sex addiction. I found that they all related to the same two terms: sociopath or psychopath, which appeared to be used interchangeably. I clicked on a website called lovefraud.com, started by Donna Andersen, and found a wealth of information: the symptoms of psychopathy; example cases (including details about Donna’s devastating experience with the sociopath she married , James Montgomery); resources for victims; articles from the key specialists on psychopathy and narcissism, and a forum for women like me to share their experiences with other victims of  social predators. Each person who speaks out on lovefraud.com not only helps heal those who are on it and themselves, but also spreads the word about this website and its helpful information to others. The format of lovefraud is somewhat similar to the Wikipedia or The Huffington Post: it’s reader generated and regulated, with structural limits and some expert input. If you want to reach and help a wide community of readers internationally, I believe this is the most effective way to do it.  Hopefully, lovefraud.com will continue to grow exponentially, drawing strength and numbers from each victim who, in turn, informs others.

While most people can’t relate to the degree of malicious deception and harm inflicted by sociopaths, these women did, since they had experienced it. Moreover, since they had willingly joined the lovefraud community, they weren’t willing to turn a blind eye to the harm caused by the sociopaths, accept it, rationalize it, justify it, or collude with it in any way. In other words, like me, they didn’t want to play the victim role.

On lovefraud.com and from reading other psychology websites and books, I learned that sociopaths constitute between 1 and 4 percent of the population: which means that there are millions of them in the U.S. alone. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of sociopaths are not serial murderers: although since they lack conscience, many of them are quite capable of murder. Initially, they come across as charismatic and flattering, which is how they attract their targets. As I had witnessed myself, they’re great pathological liars, which is how they dupe, manipulate and con people into doing what they want, even when it’s against their interests. They have no conscience or remorse for hurting others, which is why they can be so callous even to their family members. In fact, sociopaths usually prey upon those who love them. They can’t be fixed by either therapy or drugs because they don’t want to change, because they consider themselves superior to others and, above all, because their personality disorder is deeply engrained in their brain wiring and character.

Unlike people who suffer from mental deficiencies, however, psychopaths are usually highly intelligent and use their minds to cause harm to others. Donna Andersen’s website, lovefraud.com, provided not only a wealth of information, but also healing and motivation. It helped me recover from my devastating experience and motivated me to use my research and writing skills to inform others about psychopathy, so that I too can help victims the way Donna’s website helped me.

In 2010 Donna Andersen published Love Fraud: How Marriage to a Sociopath Fulfilled My Spiritual Plan, an autobiographical book about her experience of being used by, lied to and conned out of a staggering $ 223,000 by her ex-husband, James Montgomery. For the past three years I had done so much psychology research on psychopathy, started my own blog (http://psychopathyawareness.wordpress.com) and written two books–a novel called The Seducer (previewed on the link http://www.neatorama.com/bitlit/category/the-seducer/) and the upcoming nonfiction book called Dangerous Liasions about it already. I didn’t think that I could learn much more about the subject, but Donna’s book proved me wrong.

From the moment I opened her book, I couldn’t put it down. Love Fraud offers the details of how her sociopathic ex-husband James Montgomery conned her and dozens of other women into giving him their life savings, credit cards and other resources. After bleeding them dry, he abandoned them to move on to the next victim. His entire life Montgomery pursued business ventures that never panned out, lying to the women who funded his grandiose schemes about business deals that didn’t exist and credentials that he didn’t have. But, ultimately, Love Fraud is not a victim’s tale, but a survivor’s story. It shows how despite all the havoc this sociopath caused in her life, Donna Andersen recovered from it, found true love again with the man who is now her husband (Terry Kelly), established ties with fellow victims of sociopathic predators, and used her experience to start a website, lovefraud.com, which has approximately 3000 visitors a day and helps tens of thousands of women, worldwide.

In her book, Donna describes how she found inner strength from a spiritual journey that encouraged her to view herself as a survivor, not just a victim, of her sociopathic husband. This spiritual growth was as necessary as the rational pursuits of the truth about Montgomery’s deception and fraud. Sociopaths suck out the joy out of life and the spiritual strength of their victims. Like parasites in the natural world, they destroy their targets, inside and out. To regain control of your life and assert your identity again, you need not just helpful resources and information, but also spiritual courage and strength. And Donna found plenty of both!

The road from victim to survivor she outlines in her book entails, first of all, acceptance and knowledge. Without understanding what sociopaths are, you risk remaining subject to their twisted manipulations, gaslighting and lies. It also entails belief in yourself: realizing that you are far more, and deserve far better in life, than being a disordered man’s dupe and possession, to be held in reserve for him, for when he wants to use you again. It also entails establishing social links with others, who are healthy human beings and who care about you. Psychopaths isolate their targets from their loved ones and friends because they don’t want healthy perspectives and true love to interfere with their evil designs.

Donna counteracted this by having the courage to date again, despite her horrible experience with James Montgomery, and by establishing contact with the other women her husband conned. She even worked closely with one of them to expose James Montgomery and recover her money, or at least drive him into bankruptcy, the way he did her and so many other victims. She also expanded her social network in other activities, such as rowing, and in business networking in writing and marketing–her areas of specialization–to recover socially and financially as well.

Last but not least, her writing is so engaging and entertaining–and sometimes so ironic, humorous and touching–that at times, despite the sad subject, you’ll laugh out loud. If you’re like me, an animal lover, you’ll become fond of her entire menagerie of pets, especially Beau, the loyal dog who provided so much emotional support throughout this harrowing experience. Donna Andersen is an exquisite story teller– and boy does she have a story to tell! This book has it all: sex, lies, videotapes, theft, retribution, ineffectual law enforcement, a struggle between good and evil, the triumph of truth and, as she wittily puts it, romance with a happy ending with her loving new husband and business partner, Terry Kelly. In establishing lovefraud the website and writing Love Fraud the book, Donna Andersen become not just a survivor but also a success. She’s the voice and inspiration for tens of thousands of  women in similar positions, with similar stories to tell. Donna has already appeared on a popular Investigation Discovery show, called “Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?” and given an interview about Love Fraud on Amerika Now. We’re eagerly awaiting the movie!

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness