Our very own real-life Dirty Johns

Get it’s resident love expert Linda Prescott, from Ideal Introductions, and Kathleen Loxton, partner-up to uncover the true tales of the Gold Coast’s very own Dirty Johns

His profile is perfect; a family guy, handsome and a doctor. With his charm and charisma clouding your judgement what follows is a whirl-wind romance. Despite negative reactions from family, you quickly move in together and secretly elope. When cracks start to show, your family begin investigating him and you discover you’re living with a stranger. What happens next will change your and your family’s lives forever.

This is the true story behind Netflix’s new hit show Dirty John. Though don’t assume this type of cautionary tale is relegated purely to the casting rooms of Hollywood, it’s happening right here in the Gold Coast as you’re reading this…

Case studies:

The ideal soulmate gone wrong

A 36-year-old woman with a young daughter was ready to put herself out there again after the passing of her beloved husband. She is a Christian and a family-minded individual who wished to find the same values in a potential partner. While online, she came across the ideal profile of a seemingly promising man: it said he’s a Christian and described him as family orientated. Her lovely profile soon caught the man’s attention, and they started dating. After a year the daughter made known this man’s sexual advances, and once everything had been uncovered, the woman realised the man had been grooming her to get near the daughter. He had made his profile match even more closely what she was wanting before he contacted her. Shocked that the man – who was meant to be a pillar of the community – would do such an awful thing, and heart-broken she’d let this monster into their home, the woman blamed herself and stopped dating. It wasn’t her fault: she was a victim of a well-practiced predator.

The nasty surprise

After meeting over a dating app, a couple in their late 30s have officially passed the year anniversary mark of their relationship. They’ve been talking about getting engaged and openly plan for their future together. At 38 the woman falls pregnant, and excitedly announces it to the man. The man is less then pleased and asks her to have an abortion. Turns out he’s got three kids and a wife. This isn’t sheer naivety on the victim’s part, this is a premeditated and faultless web of lies, created by an emotional manipulator, designed to trap.

So now you’re suitably engrossed in the mind-games of fraudsters and emotional manipulators, we examine Linda’s advice on how to avoid falling prey to the unimaginable.

Judging profiles

The thing about online dating is that you’re only seeing what’s being presented to you. Everyone wants to showcase the best profile (whether it’s real or not). Here are some signs that the profile you are looking at is most probably not genuine:

  • There’s only one photo: they’ve put up a really fabulous profile photo, but there’s only one.
  • Their profile has no information: this can mean they have a low level of commitment to the dating process. Committed people will be detailed about themselves. If you’re looking at an online dating profile, make sure they have at least filled in the basics and not just with one word.
  • Their social connections are very limited: okay, some people don’t have that many Facebook friends or Instagram followers. But if your potential date only has five Facebook friends and 10 Instagram followers who are mostly ‘buy follower’ accounts, you should be very concerned. This could mean that they’ve set up a separate account, so you won’t be able to see what their real-life is like, or worse, impersonating someone else.

Keeping safe on your date

There’s always that risk when meeting a complete stranger. So, if you are heading out to meet someone none of your family and friends personally know, make sure you do these things:

  • Tell someone about your plans: make sure you tell your family and/or friends about your date. This includes who you’re seeing and where you’re heading. At least one person should know where you are at all times.
  • Stay with the crowds: pick a public spot for your first date, like a restaurant or bar where there will be people to assist you should you feel uncomfortable.
  • Use safety apps: apps like Find My Friends can be really helpful when meeting someone you don’t know. Turn it on and let your friends see your movements.
  • Show that someone knows where you are: just when you see your new date, you can either make a real phone call or fake one. Say something like, “Oh, yup, so-and-so is here. We’re going to have dinner at this restaurant called ______.” Letting your new date know that someone else knows your movement is important.

Moving too fast

The problem these days with online is we are suspicious and looking for the ‘why nots’ rather than the ‘why tos’. But they say love is blind. And unfortunately, there is some truth to that. When we are in love, we tend to only focus on the positive side of things and our guard comes down. It’s not wrong to want to spend more time with someone. Having the desire to move in and live with someone you are dating is natural. But there are things that you will need to pay attention to like tenancy agreements, purchasing things for the home, and managing your finances.

Tenancy agreements: if you’re renting together, put both names on the lease so that in the event that a break up happens, no one is left in a lurch.

Purchasing items for the home: despite your best intentions to share things with your new partner, hold on. In the early stages, you might want to buy things individually first so that if a separation does happen, you will not be fighting for that TV or bed.

Managing your finances: when the relationship is still new, it’s beneficial to keep separate banking accounts. You can still share the responsibility of paying bills (your share of electricity, water, gas) but you should ultimately have full control over your savings.

Having backup: always have a Plan B should your relationship not work the way you thought it would. Will you have money for a new security deposit? Do you have enough for the mover or cleaner? These are the things that many people only think about at the end of a relationship.

Avoiding emotional manipulators

In my 25 years as a relationship expert I hear a lot of reasons why relationships break down. When I hear someone is overly jealous, I know they can potentially be manipulative as well. Although someone seeming protective can be flattering at the start, when it becomes more intense, it’s scary and possessive. Do they see interactions you have with others as being unnecessary? Are they insecure and paranoid? Do you end up spending less time with friends or even cut communication with certain people because your partner feels uncomfortable with you spending time away from him? Do you find yourself more isolated? If you answer yes, you might have an emotionally abusive partner.

Another sign to look at is if they make you doubt yourself and feel like you are unworthy. Does your partner make you feel less confident about yourself? Are you often compared to their past exes? Are you always belittled for every comment you make or opinion you give? Controlling people often want you to feel grateful that you are in a relationship with them. They will say things that will make you feel less confident, undesirable and unwanted. It’s usually done subtly but consistently.

I think the biggest mistake people make is trusting someone you barely know. Con men and women can be so charming and cunning these days that they know how to manipulate their victims. No matter how genuine someone sounds, the minute they are asking you for your credit card details, banking details or even your TFN, that should raise alarm bells. Always listen to your gut. If a new love interest says they are trying to pay for something, but their credit card isn’t working and needs to use yours, try and get out of it by saying your card has reached its limit. If a new partner suddenly tells you an incredible sob story that ends up with them needing a large sum of money, be prepared to run for the hills.

Genuine partners will never want to start a new relationship with a great burden. More often than not, they will not tell you about their financial hardship until they are really comfortable with you.

When someone is genuine, you’ll know. The first test is to see if they would tell you their last name. If they tell you their last name, there’s hope that this is a genuine date. Someone who tells you their last name knows that you will be doing some research about them before meeting up. And a genuine date will not have a problem with that as they want you to feel comfortable about meeting them in person.

Another important thing to look at is if they show genuine interest in your life and listen attentively when you are speaking. If they do, that’s a great start. Watch then if they reciprocate. If they then tell you something about themselves, it’s a positive sign. But if they always switch things and you end up only talking about yourself, think again.

The other characteristic to look at is the direction of the conversation. If at every turn of a sentence, they are leading you to the bedroom, they might be interested in nothing more than sex. Those who have been dating on unmonitored apps will have come across this: chats that start in an innocent way but then take a drastic turn. At the end of the day, it’s all about the intentions and usually, they show.

So, Get it girls, always remember to take care of yourself and your heart. Sometimes baddies don’t look like villains.

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