In today’s video, I wanted to comment on a current news story: the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial, and understand how to spot red flags in dating and relationships.

Read or watch below to see how to spot red flags.

Zachary Stockill: In today’s video, I’m going to do something that you probably haven’t seen me do very often on this channel, something I’ve rarely done if ever, and that’s comment on a current news story, something that’s been making headlines lately all over the news. Specifically, the defamation case going on between Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard. 

I think there are some important lessons in this case that we can all learn from. 

In today’s video, I’d like to share two of them. And in sharing this video and talking about this case, in no way am I trying to dunk on Johnny Depp, or I’m trying to dunk on Amber Heard, or disrespect anyone. Not really what I’m interested in. I’m sharing this because just this morning, I was watching some of Johnny Depp’s testimony, in this case, talking about his relationship with his ex-wife. 

And I’ve always liked Johnny Depp, I’ve always been a fan of his work. I’m a big fan of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and some of his other films. And it’s really sad, actually, to watch this case unfold. To hear about this relationship unraveling in real-time, regardless of who you think is right or wrong, or whether you believe the allegations made against Johnny Depp, or you don’t, that’s not really what I’m going to talk about today. 

I’d like to share a couple of lessons that Johnny Depp learned, unfortunately, the hard way, in his relationship with Amber Heard. I was watching Johnny Depp’s testimony this morning, and his lawyer asked him to describe the early days of his relationship with Miss Heard. “How did you feel about her? What was your impression of her? How did you feel generally about the relationship?” The thing that jumped out to me watching his testimony was that 

He kept using one word again, and again, using it several times. And that word was “perfect“. 

how to spot red flags

He said things like “I thought she was perfect, or she seemed perfect for me.” Or “she seemed like a perfect woman.” I forget his exact words. But he used the word perfect several times.

The big lesson here is don’t idealize anyone. Don’t idealize your date, don’t idealize your girlfriend, don’t idealize some woman or some guy or whoever, that you just met. And don’t idealize a relationship, or even YouTubers or celebrities. But for our purposes, let’s stick to the context of relationships. 

So my bread and butter is working on the issue of jealousy. As you probably know, retroactive jealousy, obsessive jealousy, that kind of thing. And I see this issue of idealization come up again and again, where in particular, a lot of men meet an incredible woman, they fall head over heels in love. On some level, they’ve start idealizing their wife or girlfriend, putting them up on this pedestal…

On some level thinking they can do no wrong. And then they learn the truth

Then they learn some detail about their girlfriend or their wife’s past sex life that they don’t really like, where they find out a wide range of details about their partner’s past, that of sets them off. Also, if you’re also struggling over your partner’s past, then you can check out my flagship online course “Get Over Your Partner’s Past Fast”.

I think you have to resist the temptation to idealize a person, to put that person on a pedestal, to think that they never had a past sex life, or they could do no wrong, or they haven’t made dumb choices or bad mistakes, or they haven’t maybe slept with some idiot, as most of us have. Resist the temptation to idealize someone. 

Because when you idealize someone, especially in the early stages of a relationship, you’re setting yourself up for all kinds of future heartbreak, all kinds of future complications. And it’s very likely that on some level, you could overlook some serious red flags, which I’m going to get to next…

The second lesson that I think we can all learn from Johnny Depp… (By his own admission, by the way. He’s the one talking about this. He’s the one admitting this stuff…)

So remember, he met this woman, falls deeply in love, with all of the hormones, and oxytocin and all that stuff. Research has shown that it’s almost like being drunk. You’ve probably heard the expression “drunk in love,” or the famous Beyoncé song. There’s something to that idea. 

Because when we fall in love with someone deeply, it’s almost like we’re drunk. It’s almost like we’re on drugs. 

how to spot red flags

We feel this incredible rush of chemicals. And again, we start idealizing the person we love and putting them on a pedestal. And that often causes us to overlook red flags. 

So Johnny Depp, in his testimony, was talking about the fact that despite the fact that the early stages of the relationship were very good and blissful and all the rest…

There were certain things that he picked up on early on that started to trouble him–and that he decided to overlook. And in my view, I would call these serious red flags. 

The first one that he mentioned was controlling behavior. 

So he gave a couple of interesting examples. He was talking about how in the early stages of their relationship, Johnny Depp would come home from a long day of work, and Amber Heard, his then-girlfriend, would bring him a glass of wine and take off his boots for him. He wasn’t taking off his own boots, which on some level seems kind of nice and sweet, and like a nice gesture for a woman to give to her man. Then he talks about another day sometime later when he comes home from work, and she gets him a glass of wine and goes to take off his boots…

When he first came home, she was busy in another room, on the phone. So he took off his own boots. She entered the room and had a bit of a panic attack about it. She was really freaking out about it. She made it clear that it was not okay that he took off his own boots. Another example of generally controlling behavior, and what I would call a red flag.

(I feel weird gossiping about this stuff, but it provides an interesting insight into relationships and red flags.)

In addition, apparently Miss Heard was completely against the idea that they would ever go to bed at separate times. So Johnny Depp would want to go to bed a little bit later, that was not okay with her. 

She would completely freak out and lose her cool; “We have to go to bed at the same time, always!”

how to spot red flags

Johnny Depp’s a 50 something-year-old man, and she wasn’t letting him go to bed at the time that he wanted. 

So these are two pretty clear examples, to my mind, of causes for concern early on in the relationship of red flags. Maybe not necessarily deal-breakers, but certainly red flags. But in his testimony, you can see that there was a part of him that was kind of picking up on these weird little red flags, this weird controlling behavior. 

On some level, his intuition was telling him that something was off. But he probably couldn’t fully appreciate that message, because he’d already idealized her to such an extent. Because he was already using words like perfect, which you’ve probably heard me say before is, I believe, the most dangerous word to use in the context of human beings and relationships. 

So what can we learn from this? Once again, I think the two big lessons: don’t idealize anyone. And this isn’t to be cynical about falling in love and meeting incredible people and having a whirlwind romance. These things that can be great. But at the same time, try to keep your head, and give that person time to show you who they really are.

Because no one’s perfect. I’m not perfect, you’re probably not perfect either. Amber Heard and perfect Johnny Depp aren’t perfect. Perfection does not exist. 

So don’t idealize people because it can cause you to overlook serious red flags. Keep your awareness up for little red flags and weird little controlling behaviors and things that could be indicative of serious problems down the line. 

And regardless of whose side you’re taking in this courtroom drama, regardless of who you believe, it’s very clear that this was an incredibly toxic relationship for everyone involved. Everyone would have been better served, I’m sure, if they just moved on very, very quickly. And if Johnny Depp maybe had been keeping his head a little bit, and listening more deeply to his intuition, not idealizing her, perhaps all this pain and drama and chaos could have been avoided. 

I seriously doubt that either Johnny Depp or Amber Heard is watching this. But again, I don’t mean to dunk on anyone here. It just makes me sad.

Because these are two people that once upon a time probably did love each other. And it’s just dissolved into drama and chaos and divorce that took several years, and all these allegations, and pain. 

Sometimes it really is better to cut your losses as soon as possible; to cut bait and run as quickly as possible…

… as soon as you start getting the sense that you’re entering a toxic relationship.

Zachary Stockill
Zachary Stockill

Hi! I'm a Canadian author and educator whose work has been featured in BBC News, BBC Radio 4, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. I'm the founder of, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy and The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.