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Are You Dating a “Dirty John?” Here’s How to Protect Yourself
If self-proclaimed “tough cookie” Vicki Gunvalson can be seduced by a bad guy, so might you.
One of the most fascinating elements of Bravo’s new limited series, Dirty John, is realizing just how easy it can be to enter a relationship with a stranger who charms their way into your life. But when a person seems too good to be true, oftentimes there's good reason to believe they are.
Personal Space spoke to licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert Rachel Dack (MS, LCPC, NCC) to identify the warning signs that could spell relationship trouble and how to avoid falling for someone like this in the future.
According to Dack, “Anyone could fall victim to being used or manipulated in dating, [especially] if they exhibit desperation due to low self-worth, poor standards, discomfort with being single, or an eagerness to find love.” Despite being warned by family or friends, there is a good chance you will “keep it going if the love the person gives you feels worth the price.” Therefore, it’s imperative to be on the lookout for red flags, before the relationship gets too serious and complicated to end.
Dack explained that all (or any) of these five telltale speed-bumps should spell trouble:
If You're Being Pursued Intensely
If your new flame is a “smooth operator, charming you, complimenting you, and pursuing you heavily in the beginning, you may be flattered." But, "especially if you have been deprived of attention from men,” this could be a sign that they are trying to lure you into a troubled relationship, Dack explained.
If Their Behavior Starts to Change
Be on alert if your new partner starts out sweet and loving, but then gets snappier and more secretive or withdrawn. Also, if they begin the relationship being generous and paying for things, but then start relying on you to pay for everything, this could be a sign of their true nature.
If They Don't Financially Contribute
Being the breadwinner doesn't automatically mean the relationship is a gold-digging one; however, it could be if you “suspect financial support — paying for dates, loaning money, or giving gifts — is needed to keep the relationship intact.” Keep your eyes open if you worry that the relationship will “fizzle” if you stop paying for their lavish lifestyle. Additionally, “telling yourself you can afford to pay to justify their lack of contribution may make you feel better in the moment, but does not negate this red flag,” Dack said.
If the Relationship Is Moving Too Fast
If your partner is pushing major relationship milestones at an accelerated pace, such as saying “I love you” within the first few dates, suggesting eloping, or asking for access to finances, be cautious that it could be moving in an unhealthy direction. Especially if they push toward marriage after a big disagreement — it could just be a distraction or a way to keep you close.
If They're Caught in Inconsistencies or Lies
It’s very telling if they “exaggerate or embellish professional accomplishments” and then manipulate you to turn against those in your life who see the discrepancies and warn you. If your partner blames others for their situation — it may mean they are unable to accept responsibility for their life choices. If you find out that they aren't in fact as successful as they let on, there is a good chance they are lying about wealth and other things as well.
According to Dack, here are the best ways to keep this situation from happening to you:
- Know your self-worth and value.
- Trust your gut, especially if something “feels off.”
- Don’t feel pressured to rush anything (sex, moving in together, engagements, etc.).
- Have smart boundaries, like early dates in public.
- Keep finances separate and protected.
- Establish and utilize a support network, and/or consult a licensed mental health professional.
Dack concluded, “If you feel worthy of a great relationship, you will be less likely to settle for the wrong person and ignore red flags.” If you are not in a good place with yourself or “have unresolved baggage from past relationships, you may believe you can’t do any better and should feel lucky someone is interested in dating you.” That makes it easier for a “Dirty John”-type to swoop in and sweep you off your feet. Additionally, be careful how you present yourself when you first start dating. “Appearing like you have money, resources, or high social status will make you a bigger target for someone with bad intentions.”