What Every Woman Should Know About Men Who Pretend to be Harmless

by Janet Ong Zimmerman on 06/18/2013

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Most women have dated or been in a relationship with a man who seems too good to be true. This man says the right things, makes grand gestures, may disappear only to return weeks later, and creates the illusion that you are special to him. Appearances are deceiving, and this man is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He preys on unsuspecting women who are easily taken by who he appears to be.

Knowing what to look for in these men will keep you from being sucked into their smooth and wily ways. Here’s what to look for in men who pretend to be harmless.

What to Look for

1. He is a master manipulator
He makes you feel bad or wrong for questioning him when you have good reason to doubt what he’s saying. He is evasive with his answers, making you feel like you’re prying when he’s being deceitful with what he’s telling (or not telling) you. He doesn’t take responsibility for what he did so you end up feeling bad for what happened and apologize for something you didn’t do. All of his smooth-talking words, behaviors and actions are done to divert attention away from him and make you feel bad.

2. He doesn’t know how to love
Love is selfless and is about wanting the best for the other person. This man is selfish because he wants only the best for him. He spends his time and effort trying to see how much he can get from you. No matter how much love you show him, he will never be able to love you in return because he doesn’t love himself. (The degree of love we have for ourselves determines the degree of love we can have for another.)

3. He isn’t trustworthy
Something doesn’t feel right because he tells you something that contradicts what he said earlier. His whereabouts are questionable and leave you wondering where he’s been and who else he’s seeing. You feel hesitant about questioning him and when you do, instead of being truthful, he points the finger in your direction and says you have trust issues. This makes you think that he may be right, instead of thinking that you have good reason to not trust him.

4. He is a chameleon
This man will change himself to appeal to unsuspecting women he finds attractive. A chameleon man isn’t comfortable in his own skin which is why he is evasive and works hard to conceal who he is. A chameleon man doesn’t truly know who he is which means you can’t know who he is either. You’re not really falling for him; you’re actually falling for your fantasy of who he appears to be.

5. He may disappear
Even after spending a wonderful time together, he may disappear leaving you confused, anxious and wondering what to do. If he reappears, he’ll act like his behavior is normal and try to pick up where things left off. He may even have an explanation that sounds reasonable. If you choose to believe him, the cycle will continue. You’ll have a great time together, he’ll disappear, reappear, and so on and so on.

6. He compartmentalizes his life
He isn’t forthcoming about sharing his entire life with you. He shares only certain aspects, which gives you a one-dimensional view of what he chooses to show you. He keeps you separate from his family and/or friends. When a man keeps you separate in this way, chances are, he has a secret life you don’t know about. You never truly know who he is.

7. He doesn’t deserve you
No matter what he says or does to make you feel special, he isn’t worth it. The fleeting moments of happiness you feel when you’re with this man are nothing compared to lasting happiness you can have with an upstanding man who is truly there for you. A solid relationship can only be built with a man who is trustworthy, says what he means, does what he says, shows you who he is and shares his life with you. Remember, you are a prize and deserve more.

What You Should Know

The signs are there early on in dating or in a relationship. To know if you’re with a man who pretends to be harmless, pay attention to the red flags described above. If you’re constantly feeling manipulated, bad or questioning things, listen to and trust your intuition.

You won’t feel a lasting connection. Connecting with someone at a deeper level requires being vulnerable, which means he would have to show up as his authentic self. He isn’t capable of doing this and if it appears like he’s being vulnerable, it’s not real; it’s manipulation. If you’re vulnerable with him, you’ll feel a false sense of connection that’s short lived.

It’s not personal. The way this man behaves, acts and treats you is the way he is with other unsuspecting women. Don’t blame, be hard on or judge yourself negatively. This type of man tends to prey on women with low self esteem. If this rings true for you, work on determining and knowing your own worth. In doing so, you will attract a man who is worth your while.

Related Article: What’s Love Got to Do with Red Flags

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  • Jo-Ann

    But Im didn’t have low self esteem

  • Dear Jo-Ann, thank you for your feedback. I see that we have a Love Discovery Session soon. Perhaps we can talk about this during our session. I look forward to speaking with you soon. Take care.

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  • uigs

    Do you really think that if a man keeps you seperate from his family/friends (and home) that he is leading a seperate life? He said he didn’t want a relationship and I know that is automatic walk away words but a part of me just wants to know if he kept all that seperate because he doesn’t want a relationship or because he is hiding something, or both? I guess nobody can answer that with certainty but I just want to understand if a man could keep you so seperate from his life just because he doesn’t want a relationship, I would love to get your thoughts. I want to move on but I am finding it very hard, this man is very cuddly, charming, and romantic (not in wine and dine way, but a sweet way). I feel addicted to him and I also truly care for him and when he says the sweetest things to me and holds my hand so tight, it makes me melt.

    • A man who keeps you separate from his family, friends and home is hiding something (i.e. not being truthful about something, leading a separate life, etc.), wants you on his terms, is self centered and more concerned about getting what he wants. When a man says he doesn’t want a relationship, believe him. Many women make the mistake of thinking that they can change a man’s mind about wanting a relationship. The fact that he is keeping you separate from so many important aspects of his life and isn’t wanting a relationship are signs that you should walk away.

      You deserve much more than what this man is giving you. Don’t settle for a man who makes you an option. Leave this man so you can be available for a man who makes you a priority. There is a man who means the sweet things he says, holds your hands tight, is cuddly, charming, romantic, and wants to include you in his life. Reflect on what you are really addicted to. My sense is that it’s not an addiction to him. Is it possible your addiction to him is about being addicted to the longing for someone you can’t have? Or is your addiction about something else?

      • uigs

        Hi Janet, Thank you for taking the time to reply to my post. I actually cried reading the response so I guess it hit home. I do absolutely believe him that he doesn’t want a relationship and I never thought I would change his mind. The problem is that I didn’t know this until I already got emotionally invested. Initially, there were things that made me think that he was open to a relationship, ultimately I was confused. I know that I am partly to blame for that because whereas I stated to him early on that I wasn’t interested in a casual relationship, he didn’t state what he wanted and by the time I asked directly to clear things up, I was attached.

        I am reflecting more on the normal parts of a loving relationship that I don’t get to experience with this man and I feel a sad longing for more. With that being said the time we are together is genuinely wonderful, he’s funny, charming, romantic, and passionate. I partly really wanted the excitement that I experience with him, but I also want a real relationship. I feel very sexually compatible with him and comfortable too, maybe that is the addiction. There certainly are things about him that I would desire in a relationship partner and overall I am very attracted to him. This is why it is hard for me to move on, on the surface the secrecy is a disgrace, I wonder how I got here. If he’d just be an outright jerk it would be so easy, but he’s so charming, complimentary, polite and funny that it makes it hard to hate him and move on. The one time I did walk away he had tears in his eyes, he didn’t change his case for a relationship though, and he continued to stay in contact until the I miss you’s wore me down and I saw him again.

        • You are very welcome. I believe love’s difficulties happen for our greater good. From this situation, you have the opportunity to learn and grow, and in doing so, you will prepare yourself for meeting more of the right kind of men. Men show up in our lives to help us learn what we want and don’t want in an ideal man and romantic relationship. They also reflect back to us where we need to change in order to have what we truly want.

          Instead of being judgmental (i.e. “…secrecy is a disgrace”), be kind and gentle to yourself. You have been doing the best you can based on where you’re at and what you knew. You are not alone – most every woman has a similar story like yours. Here’s mine

          If you were to look at your situation, how might you see that this is happening for your greater good? What lessons are you meant to learn here? If you decide to move on, what will you do to not let him wear you down so that you see him again? Sending you much love.

          • tmgmri

            Hi, I am actually struggling right now because my boyfriend just broke up with me again. He broke up with me once, a month after we had our first anniversary and we got back on track after six months. We were happy with our relationship until the time he had to go to a far place from here because of some issues for three months. We still kept on communicating until the time that it was so dry that we almost kept on fighting. About 2 weeks before his arrival back in here, things were going well again. I was so excited about his arrival. When we decided to meet again, it was his birthday. I wasn’t really on the mood because we had misunderstandings and he told me that I crashed his birthday. We got okay but then after a few days he began to be so cold to me. Until the time he said that he has no feelings for me anymore, that it won’t work out for him. That he was so full of everything and that he was tired. He told me that he wants to work on his family first, his dad and he told me he doesn’t like to make any commitments nor promises to me. He told me that if it’s us, then it will really be us. Now it really hurts me because I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to leave or give up because I know that things will still work out for both of us. I want us to be happy again, like the way we used to before. I already apologized for everything I’ve done to him but he keeps on pushing me away. He told me that he wants time alone and that he will communicate to me again during Christmas. But I want us back together so badly. I kept on praying and I’ve been crying every single day and every night. I can’t take this without him. I don’t know what to do. Please help me 🙁 @LoveCoachJanet

          • Dear tmgmrl, I’m sorry you are struggling with this and understand how difficult this situation is. As much as you want to be with him, it’s best to not contact him and give him his space. If you try to contact him now and in the near future, it will only push him further away and can make you seem desperate. Unlike a girl, a guy needs time and space away from a girl if he is meant to miss her, and if he realizes this, this increases his desire to want to be with her.

            If your ex is a good guy and you want to increase the possibility of him coming back for good, don’t initiate contact with him, his family nor his friends. Here is an article with some suggestions on how to get him back without being needy and desperate

            I believe that if love is meant to be, love will find a way. If you’re meant to be with this guy, you will be together. If you’re not meant to be together, it means that there is someone else who is a better fit for you. Take care of yourself during this difficult time. Be kind and loving towards yourself.

          • Dear tmgmrl, I’m sorry you are struggling with this and understand how difficult this situation is. As much as you want to be with him, it’s best to not contact him and give him his space. If you try to contact him now and in the near future, it will only push him further away and can make you seem desperate. Unlike a girl, a guy needs time and space away from a girl if he is meant to miss her, and if he realizes this, this increases his desire to want to be with her.

            If your ex is a good guy and you want to increase the possibility of him coming back for good, don’t initiate contact with him, his family nor his friends. Here is an article with some suggestions on how to get him back without being needy and desperate

            I believe that if love is meant to be, love will find a way. If you’re meant to be with this guy, you will be together. If you’re not meant to be together, it means that there is someone else who is a better fit for you. Take care of yourself during this difficult time. Be kind and loving towards yourself.

          • tmgmri

            @LoveCoachJanet Thank you very much for replying. It has been days and I think I need to be positive about everything. It just feels really sad. I really want to talk to you and learn more from you. If only I knew your email. I have been searching on different ways on how to fix everything and get them back, my tabs full, wondering why, wondering how. I want to give him the time but I’m afraid that he would still be so cold to me. I want to see him for another time to fix things but I don’t know when is the right time. If he texts me this Christmas, will I text him back? or give him a greet? Thank you so much, you really helped me a lot. It’s going to be a painful Christmas for me. :'(

          • You’re welcome, tmgmrl. In this situation, it really is best to just give him space and time, and be with what is instead of searching how to fix things and over-thinking the whys and hows. During this time, reflect inward to see how you contributed to the breakup. Then work on improving those areas so if he does come back, you will be an even better you. If things are meant to be, they will be more likely to happen if you give him his space and time, and work on becoming your best self. If he texts you this Christmas, you can text him back as if you would text a friend. I do private coaching if you want to talk with me about this situation. If interested in learning about coaching, my email address is janet@loveforsuccessfulwomen.com. Take care.

          • uigs

            Thanks again for your reply. I ended it and though I have a lot of thinking to do, I do feel that I am not strong enough to resist any charming words that might be used to try to get back into my life, just in case. Happy New Year!!!

          • You’re welcome, uigs. If he tries to charm you back into his life, keep your focus on what you want. And remember…he is not able or willing to give you these things. You deserve much more with a man who includes you in his life and makes you a priority. Take good care.

  • passion

    I wish I had seen this sooner, it would’ve saved me a lot of embarrassment and heartache. My ex boyfriend did everything u listed, and sadly I responded exactly the way you described, I have never apologized so much to a person as much as I did to him, yet at the same time I was always feeling confused because things weren’t adding up. He was so manipulative that I even began to convince myself that I was just being insecure and should “trust him.” Two years I put in with him and one-day I just wouldn’t let up and he dumped me, told me I put him through BS. I never cheated, he met my family and friends I only net two of his friends once in the two years, I never knew his hangout spots, but I thought I’d myself as being the girlfriend that gave him his space. Two weeks after we broke up I found out he moved another woman in his apartment, I knew then he never loved or cared for me and that all my questioning was right. But I can’t deny the humiliation and foolishness I feel for being gullible enough to have believed in him and in what I thought was “our relationship.”

    • Dear Passion, I’m sorry you had to experience this and hope you are also being kind to yourself. Most every woman has been in this kind of situation and you are not alone. My suggestion is to use this experience as a good learning opportunity. You now know what to look for and if you pay attention to your intuition (i.e. always feeling confused because things weren’t adding up) and face the truth, you won’t find yourself with this kind of guy again. Sending you much love.

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  • BeeBee

    Oh my. This helped me so much. I was dealing with a master manipulator who on a constant basis tried to make me think I had issues because I questioned him about his manipulating ways and keeping me separate from his family and friends. I knew I wasn’t crazy or had issues as he like to say.

    • Dear BeeBee, I’m so glad to know this article was helpful for you. It’s good you’ve recognized that this man was a master manipulator. What other people do is more about them and not really about you. The next time someone says or does something to make you feel like you have issues, notice that with curiosity and don’t make it mean something bad about you. My apologies for just now responding to your comment – I didn’t see it until now. Take care.

  • Darlene Rodgers

    Thank you. i knew something was wrong…especially i knew in my gut he has someone else and he would turn the tables on me….he was a manipulater and did everything this article says and i felt like i was always doing something wrong and it made me sad and mad at the same time. i knew that what i was saying was the truth and i wasnt tripping pr acting crazy. thank you so much for this.

    • You’re welcome, Darlene. I’m sorry you had to go through this. You’re not alone – most every woman has met or been with a man like the one you’ve been with. The good news is because you’ve had this experience, you now know what to look for and when something doesn’t feel right. Take good care.

  • Tanya

    This was one of the most succinct descriptions of a narcissist. I truly appreciate how this was clearly and concisely written as often women go searching for answers, yet have to piece the behaviours together through reading copious amounts of literature in the subject. Thank you for this as it has helped remind me that my x has indeed taken advantage of me and is not worth spending anymore time on. I appreciate how you saved “what you should know” for last as it helps to give women hope. When in a relationship with a narcissist you find yourself losing all hope that you are a sane person as everything is turned upside down and all around.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words about this article, Tanya. I really appreciate your feedback, and am glad to know it helped remind you that your ex isn’t worth spending time on. Take good care.

  • Gin Jing

    I wish I could read this article earlier in my relationship, then I won’t blind my eyes and let him take advantage of me. He exactly pretended to like me but ended up with leaving me without formal conversation. He hided me from friends/colleagues. He utilised my love to him to settle down the apartment/furniture and never officially thanked me. He showed me one-dimension of his life. He also showed in front of me how decent he was when treating other people. If I could know the red flags earlier, I won’t allow him treating me like this and leaving me sad alone here. My question is if I bump into him, how should I react? I really don’t want to talk to him.

    • Dear Gin, I hope you’re being gentle with yourself. It’s understandable to be feeling the way you do. If possible, look at this situation as the lessons you’re meant to learn, which may help ease the pain you’re feeling. Since you’ve had the experience of being with this kind of guy, you’ll know what to look for moving forward. If you run into him, my suggestion is to not react in any way. There’s no need to talk to him – you don’t owe him anything. Take good care of yourself.

      • Gin Jing

        Thanks Janet. I tried hard to get over him from my mind and focus on my life. Since he became ghosting suddenly without any explanation, I stopped myself contacting him as well. After a month, I could relieve myself more without thinking much about it. Until last weekend, I saw him with a girl hands in hands in the supermarket…my feelings were back again. Over this week, I was back into the mode of thinking: why this happens to me? How could he showed his affection for me just for settling down everything and then went out for his funs? People said it’s my responsibility to let him use me. It’s really hash. He would tell me if he was not serious. Then I would not help him and not invest my emotion. How should think this in a correct way? I trapped myself in a hole.

        • You’re welcome, Gin. I understand how you are feeling after seeing him holding another girl’s hands. I’m going to suggest you ask yourself a different question. Instead of “Why did this happen to me?” Ask, “How did this happen for my greater good?” When something challenging happens, there is typically a good lesson to learn that helps us grow.

          When people say it’s your responsibility that you let him use you, that’s not the case. That kind of guy has a pattern of doing this to other women, and will say things a woman wants to hear.

          Now that you have gone through this experience, you now know what to look for. Knowing that will help you from being in that situation again.

          • EffinBiatch

            My heart broke reading your comments.

            This is, like Janet has expressed, all happening FOR you. It’s to show you something, it’s likely that you dont have much love for yourself. You do a lot for others with expectation. This one is hard to understand especially when you’re heartbroken. It has reappeared because you haven’t mended your
            heart. You need to always ask “what would a person who loved themselves do here” and do that.

            How about everything you do for men, you do for yourself, your children, my mother etc and then allow men to do much more for you. If this is hard to accept, then we have pinpointed the message the universe is sending you.

            When something similar happened to me I realized I needed to start loving myself more. He was a blessing diguised as real eye opening pain to get my attention – that doesn’t mean I dont have the occasional nostalgia. Sometimes and more rarely now I have a bit of a cry using his actions
            towards me. This for me is relief and I’m being kind and compassionate to myself.

            If you’re still not getting what I’m trying to explain, that’s OK – it took me years. Just google self love and keep researching, the answers and even a solution to your pain will appear.

            Much love xx

          • Thanks so much for your sharing your wisdom. Asking “What would a person who loved themselves do here” is a wonderful way to begin shifting to self love. It sounds like you’ve learned some helpful lessons and I’m so glad to know you’re being kind and compassionate to yourself. I so appreciate you stopping by. All the best to you in life and love.

  • Jacquline Renee Tobias

    I am so thankful for this article. I finally started dating this man 3 months age after he had chased me relentlessly for months. I had an uneasy feeling from the first moment he spoke to me. I followed through on that feeling at first because I did not pay him any mind. I was going through some things when I finally gave in. Parent with cancer, stress on the job, ended friendships and other relationships that were not healthy. He asked me for my phone # again and I just figured what could be the harm. As you have stated: We had great times together when we would be together. He was so affectionate and appeared so caring. Telling me he loved me and that I was going to be his wife. Things often did not add up and I would question him. Every time I would get ready to end things he would have a death in the family or end up in the hospital. I would then get frustrated because I felt I needed to end the relationship but felt guilty because he was going through so much. I found out today, that he lives with his girlfriend and has a 1 month baby. Also, that he has been dealing with many women. I am hurt, relieved, and wish I would have followed my intuition from the start.

    • Dear Jacquline, I’m sorry you had to go through this and appreciate you sharing your situation. I hope you’re being kind and compassionate with yourself. These kinds of situations happen for our greater good – they help us pay closer attention and know what to look for so we don’t allow another guy to prey on us. And you now know to listen to and follow your intuition so that in itself is a very worthwhile lesson that will serve you well throughout your life. Take good care. Sending you love.

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