It dawned on me a few years ago that our rational lives are like a still pond and madness is the jagged rock thrown into it, creating odd ripples everywhere. And the most powerful madness of all, when it comes to the way the world turns, is psychopathy.
There's a consensus amongst psychologists that psychopaths -- with all their glib charm and grandiosity and the power to effortlessly manipulate -- do brilliantly in business and politics. Theirs is the brain anomaly that rules our world. Which is why I've written a book about them: "The Psychopath Test." As part of my research, I spoke to hundreds of people--everyone from the doctors who catalogue mental illness, to those who vehemently oppose them, to a Broadmoor Hospital inmate who says he faked a mental disorder. In the process, I learned that, during the courtship phase, psychopaths come across to the women they're targeting as potentially great husbands. What I'm saying is, you may have married a psychopath. It is really very possible. He might have not yet revealed the full extent of his astonishing malevolence. You might want to pack your bags and run screaming from the marriage before he does. Let me help. What follows are five telltale signs that your husband may be a psychopath.
1. He was very gallant when you first met him, not so gallant now.
Psychopaths can be very superficially charming. It's Item 1 on the 20-point Hare PCL-R psychopathy-spotting Checklist: Glibness/Superficial Charm. I knew a woman, Mary, who met an extremely gallant man while Internet dating. He was so gallant he'd even walk on the road side of the sidewalk. (I am so ungallant I didn't even know that was a thing. I am not a psychopath.) Mary married her man and he turned out to be a pedophile and a bigamist and a fraudster -- a textbook psychopath. Okay, give your husband the benefit of the doubt if the intensity of his gallantry has diminished since the the courtship days. That's normal. We can't keep that level up. But if he's replaced the gallantry with being a remorseless, unempathetic bastard, you may have a problem.
2. He's grandiose.
That's Item 2 on the Checklist: Grandiose Sense of Self Worth. In my book "The Psychopath Test," I meet an enormously wealthy former Fortune 500-type CEO, Al Dunlap, to ask him which of the 20 Hare psychopathic traits he felt most applied to him. He instantly confessed to Grandiose Sense of Self Worth, which would have been a hard one for him to deny as he was at the time standing underneath a giant oil painting of himself. Does your husband have giant portraits of himself? Is he an overly-snappy dresser? Does he tell a lot of stories about himself in which he's always the hero? Does he bulldoze his way through conversations to talk about himself in this grandiose way?
3. He Had Early Behavioral Problems.
Recently I was chatting to a guy and I happened to ask him about his childhood. Had he been a bully or bullied?
"Oh," he said quite cheerfully. "I was a bully. I used to hide behind a tree and jump out and hit my enemies with lumps of wood." He paused and added wistfully: "I'd hurt them quite badly!"
"How did it make you feel?" I asked.
"Good!" he said. "I enjoyed that feeling of power. I still enjoy thinking about it, all these years later."
Psychopaths are very good at hiding their psychopathy beneath a veneer of normalcy. You don't have to be Hercule Poirot to spot someone bipolar, say, or in the grips of an OCD attack, but you do have to be Hercule Poirot sometimes to spot a psychopath. Which is why Early Behavioral Problems is such a handy item on the Checklist. It's harder to hide a hoodlum childhood -- there'll be your husband's school record to sneakily read. Was your husband a terrible bully as a child, pulling the wings off flies, etc? If he says yes, or if he school record confirms it, run. Don't look back. Run!
4. He Engages In Promiscuous Sexual Behavior.
As much as your husband will definitely be wanting to have an affair, he probably won't be. This is because doing so would make him feel incredibly guilty and remorseful. It's those creeping feelings of anxiety that kind of stop us from hurting other people. We want to empathize. We want to be good people. The consensus amongst neurologists is that the part of the brain that shoots the signals of remorse and fear and distress back and forward from the amygdala to the central nervous system under-performs in psychopaths, which frees them up to behave in remorseless, amoral promiscuous ways. They just don't care. So they do it.
5. He Spends too Much Time Learning How To Spot Psychopaths By Using the Hare Checklist
I'm a big fan of the Hare Checklist. I think it's scientifically correct. I think a bizarre facet of human nature is when our brains go wrong, they go wrong in uncannily similar ways. The Hare Checklist is brilliant at anatomizing the barely noticeable character traits evident in psychopaths. However, once you become a trained psychopath spotter, you kind of go drunk with power. So if you see your husband reading this and looking too interested, run. Don't look back. He's a menace.