The other day, I ran across this site which read in part:

Do you believe that someone (even online) has used your love and trust in order to steal your money? Did they claim they loved you, would marry you, take care of you, start a business with you – and all you had to do was provide the financing for everything? Did they disappear overnight or just walk out on you after you ran out of money? Did they refuse to pay back any of the money they received, claiming that you gave it to them willingly as a gift? Did you learn after they left that they were involved with another person at the same time they were promising you the world and taking your money? Then you are the victim of a sweetheart scam.

Naturally, the first question I had to ask myself was how do things get to this point? How many times have you started dating someone who later turns out, or reveal themselves, to be someone else? How do you know if your relationship is built with the long term stability of a house of cards? Is there any way to know, to find out, before it’s too late?

In some ways, it’s pointless to ask what kind of warning signs to look for. We’re talking about being in love, and being in love can be a special kind of crazy. Put another way, we aren’t always as logical as we ought to be. When you’re in love, you will defend your lover against outside attack or anything you perceive as an attack. When you’re in love, you hear with “ears of love” so it can be easy for folks to explain things away and you give them the benefit of the doubt. It kind of reminds me of the lyrics to the song “When a Man Loves a Woman”:

When a man loves a woman
Down deep in his soul
She can bring him such misery
If she plays him for a fool
He’s the last one to know
Lovin’ eyes can’t ever see

Still, there ought to be some red flags you ought to pay attention to. How did their previous relationships end? Granted, ex-girlfriends or ex-spouses can make for biased (to say the least) witnesses (I know that I’ve never had an ex with an ax to grind, preferably in my skull), but it’s a question to consider. How does they treat their friends and other relationships? Do they compartmentalize their life? By that I mean are you kept in one part of their life like some secret shame? Are you hidden from their parents, their family, or groups of their friends? For that matter, does too much of their life seem shrouded in secrecy, as if you are being cut out from portions of their life?

Or, one of the biggies, do they always seem to have or be in a state of crisis? Constant drama, coincidently around your pay days, can be a red flag. Money can be a critical issue in relationships, so if you find yourself constantly paying out a lot of money, or otherwise supporting them, it’s a red flag. If you find yourself always doing the heavy lifting of the relationship, be it emotionally, financially, or even spiritually, consider it a red flag. People eventually reveal who they really are, but you need to remember that a thief always gets caught.

You have a right to be picky when you are dating; you deserve the best and too often we settle for less out of fear of being alone. Make sure that the person you think you are dating really exists and isn’t just a figment of your romance filled imagination. Don’t let fear keep you from making the tough decisions. Investigate as you date, or at least keep your eyes open. Meet their friends; see what they think of your significant other and how your significant other presents you to them. But you have to draw your own line for when things rise to the level of being a deal breaker issue.

Not that any of this will make the pain any less should things go bad and you find yourself betrayed, hurt, and robbed. Few things will prevent you from falling into a dark place, curled up in a ball, under your bed sheets, shaking, like an addict in withdrawal because you not only hurt, but you still find yourself missing that person. Heartbreak is heartbreak. You need to allow yourself to purge, to mourn the relationship. Yes, you will find yourself asking if the person you thought you were dating ever existed. Maybe it becomes easier if you look at things through the eyes of a fiction writer: you can see this as another chapter of a story you contributed to, which you can and ought to put on a shelf and move on from. In the mean time, you hopefully have people, friends and family, who love you who can walk along side you through the dark times.

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