Interview with Dating Radar Authors
August 22, 2017
What prompted you to write Dating Radar?
BILL: We have seen so many people blind-sided by a high-conflict partner, that we wanted to warn people of what to look for from the start. As we worked together over the past ten years with High Conflict Institute, we learned more and more about high conflict personality warning signs. We wanted to let people know in advance, before they made the big commitments. Megan wrote her book about “Bait and Switch,” and that is what catches people so much by surprise. The person turns out to be almost the opposite of the wonderful person they dated. We wanted to help them out earlier in the process.
MEGAN: Standing idly by, watching people suffer when we knew we had the knowledge and experience to help people identify and avoid toxic relationships, wasn't an option. These relationships are harmful emotionally on the lighter end of the spectrum and violent or even fatal on the opposite end. Bill and I have worked in family law for many years, watching an endless stream of people go through high-conflict divorce and custody battles, heavily damaging their children in the process. We've trained tens of thousands of professionals on methods for managing high-conflict cases but we knew we had to one day help people before they get pregnant, move in or marry a high-conflict partner.
How is this different from dating advice books?
MEGAN: There are many good, even great, dating advice books on the market that are helpful in choosing a partner, telling us what to do when they cheat, and a myriad of relationship issues. Dating Radar is quite different in that we explicitly say that some people who look good on the surface are going to be harmful to you. And the very inviting and alluring things that make your heart go "wow!" are likely red flags that should make you run. For example, the spark felt at the beginning of a lot of high-conflict relationships is taken as a sign that you've found "the one", when it's actually a flashing neon sign saying, "beware!". Dating Radar digs beneath surface issues and hits on points that other books likely don't dare.
BILL: Most dating books don’t talk about personality disorders. This is really a hidden part of our society. We focus on what to watch out for to avoid getting into a high-conflict relationship. I think most dating books help you look for the person who is “compatible” with you. But what we learned—especially from the survey we did—was that so many high-conflict people show a fake compatibility. This is now one of the key warning signs we tell people to watch out for.
What is the most important concept you hope people take away from reading Dating Radar?
BILL: Three parts: First, Learn the key patterns of high-conflict personalities—what your radar is looking out for. Then, learn the ways HCPs jam your radar—how they mislead you. Finally, learn your own blind spots and how to overcome them.
MEGAN: Ditto on what Bill said. And I hope that people, especially millennials, will grasp the opportunity to make intelligent romance decisions so they can avoid making the mistakes their parents made. Having good dating radar isn't rocket science, but you have to want the best for yourself and choose it. The formula is in the book. I look at it like the identity protection software, Life Lock. It protects your identifying information and alerts you when it's been compromised. Dating Radar protects your heart by identifying people who may be harmful to you.
Why don’t more people spot a potentially toxic soulmate from a mile away?
BILL: Because they often jam people’s radar by seeming incredibly charming (that’s a warning sign now); seeming to be a “knight in shining armor” or “the life of the party;” seeming to have incredible compatibility (which may be fake); and people often want to be swept away because they are lonely, grieving a loss or have low self-esteem (these are blindspots).
MEGAN: People are so naive as a species. We take people at face value for what they tell us rather than watching their behaviors over time, and even then we go into denial about those less than stellar behaviors. We're often so desperate to be in a relationship that we're willing to compromise our safety and our children's future health and well-being. Like Bill said, we're drawn in by their charm and that charm tricks our brain into thinking that we've found "the one". Unfortunately, you're not "the one" to help them or fix them. High-conflict personalities are people who have long-standing patterns of negative relationship behavior. You may think you're "the one" who can help them or fix them, but you're really not. They need a different kind of help by someone skilled in that area.
Is there a quick way to figure out who will turn out to be an HCP and who won’t?
BILL: Not really. That’s why we say wait a year before making any big commitments, like getting married or having a child. But some signs may turn up earlier for those who read the book.
MEGAN: I agree with Bill. It takes time; however, I've learned to watch for little hints that give people away quickly. For example, people who demand to be respected will use the word "respect" or "disrespect" a lot. They will eventually spend a lot of time putting you down. Another example is people who are overly sexual in the beginning--the outside the norm type that makes you go "hmmmmmmm.....that seemed off, odd, or excessive. They may eventually turn your incredible romance into exhausting chaos.
If you want to see if you're possibly dating or married to someone like this, you can take a quick test here.
How come we get roped into these relationships, sometimes repeatedly?
BILL: I think this is often where the blind spots come in—especially if its repeatedly a problem. We found that many people saw warning signs, but ignored them for various reasons. Then they regretted that later on.
MEGAN: Blind spots—exactly! In most cases, as we experienced in our work and was validated in our online Dating Radar survey, most people overlook the warning signs even when they saw them. It's hard! Who doesn't like to be charmed and flattered? Wined and dined? Or told yo'u're the most beautiful, ravishing woman in the world? We desperately want to be in love, to be loved. So desperate that we downright stomp on the warning signs and proceed along fantasy boulevard thinking it'll all magically turn out alright. Rarely does that happen. Be strong! If you're tempted to be treated badly, go get some counseling to find out why you don't give yourself the same luxurious gift of a wonderful relationship when you know that you'd want that for your best friend. In fact, ask your best friend and others about your relationship, but you have to listen to them. Try it.
What do I do if I’ve already become caught up in one of the red-flag relationships?
BILL: First of all, read Dating Radar. Then talk with a therapist or good friends about how to get out of the relationship, unless you choose to stay for some reason. Some people stay because of the kids, or the lifestyle, or out of guilt. But most who took our survey decided to get out. You just have to do it carefully. That’s why planning with a therapist or other good adviser can help.
MEGAN: I couldn't say it any better. I'd add that Bill and I have both been on the end of hundreds of phone calls, emails and personal conversations with people who stayed as long as they could. The conversation usually starts like this, "I've been doing it. I've tried everything. But I'm in a deep dark hole that has no escape and I just.......can't.......do.......it.......anymore." Depending on the risk of violence or any kind of abuse or harm, please take Bill's advice to seek a therapist or good friends about how to get out of the relationship.
P.S. If you don't believe us, read the survey results for yourself. You can see them here.
Please use your dating radar!
Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq., and Megan Hunter, MBA are co-authors of Dating Radar: Why Your Brain Says Yes to "The One" Who Will Make Your Life Hell (Unhooked Books, 2017).