Joan loved getting into online relationships with men who would catfish her.
They would promise their undying love. They were usually somewhere remote, stuck on an oil rig in the middle of the ocean. They were also broke. They’d beg to wire them some cash because they needed to pay a very urgent bill that was due now, and they didn’t get a paycheck for another month. They asked if she could please help them out because they loved her so much and wanted to start a life with her once they finished this job on the oil rig.
This scenario may sound over-the-top ridiculous, but this kind of story hooked her into a catfished relationship. Every. Single. Time.
She was not emotionally healthy at the time and was prime bait. Catfishers use fake stories to make themselves look desirable. Joan was catfished because she desperately wanted someone to love her. But, these relationships created the opposite, they left her financially and emotionally destitute.
One thing I’ve found in life is that most people have good souls. However, some people can tell when you’re vulnerable and are willing to use your heart to their benefit. It’s okay to be open, even to be vulnerable. These traits are necessary to be in a healthy, committed relationship. However, you'll also need a fair dose of discrimination.
Nowadays, most people meet prospective relationships online, and how can you know if this person is for you? How can you tell if they are even a real person?
Here are a few suggestions when interacting with someone online in search of a relationship.
1.Don’t carry on a long term relationship with someone you can’t meet in person
Many people will disagree with me on this, but I’m going to stand by this one.
There may be exceptions to this rule, I’m sure. However, your relationship is most likely the rule, not the exception.
Here’s the rule: If someone who lives far away from you and professes their love before they’ve ever met you in person, send up those red flags because something is majorly off.
It feels good having someone tell you how awesome you are and how much you are loved. However, this kind of love-bombing is not a partnership. If you get caught up in this and start professing your love back, please promise me that you’ll schedule yourself an appointment for therapy.
This situation is different than if you met and dated someone in college, and now they are going to study for their Master’s degree at another school three states away. You both decide to make the long-distance thing work. That’s different. You already know each other and have had a real-life together. It’s not a catfish game.
2. Don’t believe the person when they make lame excuse after lame excuse about not being able to meet you
Another rule: The Catfisher won’t meet you because they are hiding something. Maybe they are the opposite gender than they are presenting, married, or have some other secrets they are hiding. There’s a lot of reasons the person can be hiding behind a screen. Do you want to figure that out? Yes? No?
My Catfisher hid several things from me for years that caused a lot of grief. Alcoholism, porn addiction, mental illness — instead of working through his issues, he turned towards these things to solace himself.
I’ve done the same thing — I’ve sunk into a depression, turned towards alcohol and drugs to soothe myself. I’ve turned towards looking for someone to love me when I instead needed to learn to love myself. The first part is easy, covering up the pain with instant relief through sex disguised as love until you find out you’ve been used.
It’s tougher to work on loving yourself, but it’s worth the time and effort to create a better life.
3. Don’t interact with someone online for more than one week
There’s a period of time between meeting online and meeting in person to get to know each other a bit and see if meeting in person is a good idea. Men (and women) who want to meet you, will go to great lengths to meet you as soon as possible.
If they don’t want to meet up with you, they aren’t interested in anything other than playing. If you’re serious about having a real relationship, you have to meet them in person. There’s no other way around it.
There’s no reason to carry on an extended online conversation — given a week tops — because you’ll never begin to know them until you meet them in person first.
3. Don’t get your hopes up about anyone until you meet them in person
Okay, so they do want to meet you. You both have goo-goo eyes over each other. Maybe you’ve even envisioned that this is the person you’re ready to jump into a relationship with. You believe that they are ‘the one,’ and you want to be with them because they are so wonderful to you online.
Stop. Reel in the love just a little bit. It’s okay to hope, but also keep your sensibility in check.
I learned this lesson the hard way. I was smitten over a man I met online dating: he was tall, dark, handsome, and a talented musician. Our interaction online was witty and fun. We clicked. I was so excited to meet him. I started believing he was the next love of my life.
Then, I met him — and I wanted to run the other way.
He was so completely not the person I knew online. His mannerisms, the way he carried himself, the awful way he communicated with me in person. My heart sank.
Thankfully I met him shortly after communicating with him online and got through the letdown quickly, instead of chatting with him for months, letting my emotions run away from me, and creating a faux relationship. I could have wasted a lot of time on him, taking myself away from finding the man I’m meant to meet.
4. Don’t profess your love for them before you meet them
Love isn’t something to throw around like a frisbee, hoping someone on the other side will catch it. Love develops over time. Some love experts would even say you don’t fall in love, but rather grow in love.
You can be enchanted with someone online, and you can get along with them swimmingly. But how can you have a real intimate relationship with someone you’ve never experienced in real life?
I’m not just talking about sex. I’m talking about spending time in real life with someone, doing mundane things. To share everyday, real-life is to experience real intimacy.
Most people you meet will not be a match for you. That’s okay; you weren’t meant to have intimate relationships with everyone you meet.
However, you have to spend IRL time with the person. Human communication is more complicated than a text or even a phone call, especially when you’re dealing with infatuation, love, and intimate relationships.
Communication includes the tone of our voice, the way we hold our body, and our facial expressions. You are getting a piece of communication online or texting. You can get along with almost anyone if you only communicate through text messages.
The point is to meet the person face-to-face. If they don’t want to do that, please move on.
5. Listen to the little red flags that pop up
Everybody will have some sort of baggage. However, it doesn’t mean they are bad people. Maybe they aren’t the right person for you. Or, perhaps they do have some significant flaws. But, even at the beginning level of texting and chatting, some red flags will reveal themselves. Pay attention to them. Don’t sweep them under the rug of ignorance. You are doing yourself a disservice.
If you keep pushing through and ignoring the red flags, there will only be more of them, bigger, louder, brighter, and redder.
I ignored red flags once, enough to move in with a guy. Oh, my stomach hurts when I think about it. I lived with him for a month and learned the hard way that moving in with someone who shows you tons of red flags is a hard lesson to learn. I kept pushing away the red flags, and so did he. It ended with both of us hurt.
6. Be okay with who you are — in other words, love yourself more than you love the idea of having a relationship
This rule is probably the biggest one because I believe someone who gets catfished into a relationship has to explore who they are and why they choose a relationship that creates distance rather than intimacy.
Maybe it’s a desperate need to be loved, or they may feel they are unlovable, and now there is a human on the other end of the line who’s giving them attention and showering them with affection.
That’s how I felt about my second marriage. Recovering from the abuse from my first marriage and now a single mother to two children, I desperately wanted to find love. The first man who came along, I latched onto him. If I’d been okay with myself, I’d never had stayed with him, much less married him.
Another person is not going to fix you. Everyone needs a little self-improvement. But we are still worthy of being lovable and loved. Learn to love yourself, flaws, and all.