DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: So I met this guy on Bumble. We go for dinner, we hit it off, he’s super attractive, he’s a tall, rich, charming guy and seemed very sweet. He travels a lot for work, and because he didn’t want to wait a whole month to see me again, he invites me to come with him to Miami, Sao Paulo and Seoul. I told him there’s no freakin way I’m going traveling with a stranger and that I need to take it slow, get to know him better before he sweeps me off to an adventure around the world. He said okay, and the next day he comes by to drop a small present and asks again to come with him. I said no but he made me feel special, it was nice to get all of this attention. He left for his travels, and we kept talking.
Every day that we talk, he keeps insisting that I join him and saying how he wishes I was there with him. I keep telling him no over and over. Until one day he pushes one more time and I snap, I tell him that if he brings it up again, I will stop talking to him. He told me I’m overreacting, and that I’m probably very protective and closed because of my past relationships, but that he’s not like that.
I told him that he’s not respecting my boundaries and just keeps pushing them and that doesn’t make me feel heard or safe. His response is that he was only being this intense because he hasn’t felt like this about a girl for years and that he can’t wait to see me again. I said I understand, but he doesn’t seem to care about how I feel or about my safety, and he again just keeps saying that “he’s not like other guys” and “he’s not even inviting me for sex or whatever”. Then he says I’m being too sensitive and explosive and that his intentions were good, and that I’m just lashing out on him because of my past experiences.
I told him I wanted to be with somebody who listens to me, who takes responsibility and doesn’t try to turn the conflict around on me and make me be the crazy one for setting boundaries. He kept saying that this was only because of my trauma and it was not applicable to him and that I’m ruining something that could’ve been great.
I got mad that he seem to think that none of this applies to him so I said “You wanting to take things too fast is a red flag. You pushing and insisting and not caring about what I need is a red flag. Turning the conflict around on me is a red flag” and he responded by saying this was just “my point of view” and explaining point by point why I was wrong and that he only tried to “turn it around on me” once.
He said it was too bad that I wouldn’t give him a chance when he likes me so much and can’t stop thinking about me, but this whole conflict was like PTSD from when I was married to a narcissist.
So my question is, am I overreacting because of past trauma or is my Spidey-sense spot on?
DEAR PTSD: Oh hey, this is an easy one. You made the right call here because HOLY HOPPING SHEEP S--T YES THOSE ARE RED FLAGS, PTSD, WHAT THE F--K, ACTUAL? Those aren’t just red flags, that’s more red flags than a military parade in Beijing. Those are more red flags than the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. That’s… ok, I think you get my point.
But I’m going to break this down a bit, both for you and other people who may be reading this because here’s the thing: the red flag that folks really need to pay attention may not necessarily the one they think.
First and foremost, I’m gonna be honest: when I see someone talking about having met a dude on a dating app who’s waving their jet-setting lifestyle like a cape in front of a bull, complete with business trips to all these various exotic locales, my first instinct is to ask if they’ve ever seen The Tinder Swindler.
In cae you haven’t seen it, PTSD, I’d suggest giving it a watch. Shimon Hayut would present himself on Tinder as Simon Leviev, son of Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev, and would whisk his matches off on private jets to glamorous trips around the world. Over time, however, he’d start to hit them up for their assistance in various financial schemes, ultimately soaking them for thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. The money served to finance his jet-setting lifestyle and allowed him to sucker in his next mark, each of whom thought she was having a fairy tale romance, only to realize that her prince was really Rumpelstiltskin instead.
Do I think your beau’s trying to con you out of money? That I can’t say. But there’s a lot going on here that is rightfully setting off your Spidey-sense. First and foremost is…
Ok, look I’m going to preface this by saying that this is going to sound insulting and I don’t mean it to be. But I would have to ask: why you? I have no doubt that you’re really f--king amazing and deserve a hot dude who wants nothing more than to dote on you and spoil you rotten. But one does have to wonder why someone that tall, handsome and rich is not just on Bumble, but having so hard at time at meeting potential partners that he falls head over heels for someone on the first date? Someone he literally only just met?
Yeah, your Spidey-sense should be going off like the Green Goblin’s about to chuck a pumpkin bomb through your window.
In and of itself, that reaction to a first date is pretty sus. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, but my cynical ass is always going to look at a scenario from a f--king Hallmark Christmas movie and wonder just what the catch is. If it wasn’t for the ‘stupidly rich’ part, one could possibly write it off as just… really enthusiastic and maybe twitterpated to the point that his judgment was a bit off. Maybe he’s just a all-gas-no-brakes kinda guy, emotionally. That’s not a red red flag, but it’s certainly a “proceed with caution” sign.
But that wasn’t the only thing, and he is claiming to be this rich jet-setting businessman. Which leads us to the next issue.
Part of what he’s doing is trying to overwhelm you and your judgement by painting this picture of glamour and excitement and access to a life you likely could only imagine and inviting you to be a part of it. Which is a red flag.
I’m sure you’ve heard the term “love-bombing” – it’s something that folks started throwing around on social media, usually inaccurately. Love-bombing is a technique when someone tries to manipulate you into a relationship through actions that are beyond what would be appropriate for that stage of your relationship. This often involves things like early and intense conversations about the future with you, expressing deep and passionate feelings well above what would be reasonable for how long they’ve known you and showering you with over-the-top gifts… especially gifts that you didn’t ask for, don’t want or don’t need.
While some people are just very enthusiastic and love-bombing isn’t always intentional, it is inherently manipulative. Sometimes it can come from a place of low-confidence and low self-esteem – especially if the person doing the bombing has an anxious attachment style – but it’s also a frequently deliberate tactic by people who want to lock down a commitment from somebody before they have a chance to think things through.
Now, like I said: if your erstwhile suitor was just being overly excited because you’re just that awesome… well, that doesn’t make it better, per se, but it definitely would indicate a general lack of emotional intelligence and confidence. Inviting someone he literally just met to travel around the world with him signals that he likely lacks good judgement under the best of circumstances.
The fact that he seems to think this is perfectly acceptable would be a signal that even if this cat actually has the money he claims, and he intends to spend it on you, it’d still be better to pass and let someone else be the beneficiary of his largesse.
But that’s not what happened here, and that’s why I don’t think this is the red flag you need to be paying the most attention to. The red flag I think should be the absolute dealbreaker is how he reacts when you say “no”.
The first time you said no should have been the end of the discussion. It wasn’t. Instead he bought you a small present and went on his trip… and kept asking you to travel with him. And he keeps talking about it, even when you say no. And then he gets aggressive when you assert your boundaries by saying “not just no, but if you keep bringing it up, it’ll be ‘never talk to me again’”.
That, I’m afraid, is a great f--king big red flag. That is a red flag so large that Godzilla would think it was a bit much.
First, he knows he f--ked up, and that present was basically a bribe to keep your attention and keep you talking to him. He’d rather you think that he’s a sweet and excitable puppy; he’s making a mess, but his intentions are good. Except he’s also ignoring your clearly stated boundary, he’s telling you that you’re wrong for having that boundary with him in the first place, and then negging you for good measure. This bit. This bit right f--king here:
“He told me I’m overreacting, and that I’m probably very protective and closed because of my past relationships, but that he’s not like that.”
That’s a neg. He’s trying to make you feel uncool, make you justify having this boundary in the first place and why you shouldn’t be expressing or enforcing it to him. He wants you to respond by trying to seek his approval, and making you explain the boundary’s existence is so he can tell you why you shouldn’t have it with him. And then you accede to his higher status and superior wisdom and fly off to another country with him. That’s the sort of s--t that should end the conversation for good.
But hey, why wave one red flag when you can wave many at the same goddamn time? Because this s--t should be making people hop the first available Nope Train to F--k-This-S--tville:
“he responded by saying this was just “my point of view” and explaining point by point why I was wrong and that he only tried to “turn it around on me” once.”
OK so “please stop trying to change my mind when I said no, stop ignoring my requests to drop the subject and also I have very good reasons why I don’t like this” is just “your point of view” and you’re “wrong” about how you feel and why. Yeah, fuuuuuuuuck off with that s--t. And “I only tried to turn it around on you once” is not the example of being a gentleman that he seems to think.
I realize comparing this to actual physical violence can sound over the top, but this is rather like saying “Look I didn’t hit you that hard…”
Do I know for sure that this was a swindler, a narcissist or potential abuser looking for another victim? No. But everything you describe about his behavior would be an almost perfect example of love-bombing and big ol’ warning signs saying “stay back” and “hazardous, do not touch”.
Yes, you were absolutely right to trust your instincts on this. That’s not you being over-sensitive because of past trauma, that’s your Spidey-sense telling you that s--t was not right. And if this guy really was some playboy millionaire with more money than impulse control… well, it’s a shame to miss out, but the way he was acting was a good sign that you should block him anyway.
And if he was being sincere about how he couldn’t stop thinking about you and likes you SOOOO MUCH after – and I can’t stress this enough – ONE DATE? That doesn’t make it better.
You trusted yourself and protected yourself, PTSD, and that’s a good thing
Hopefully, your next date will actually live up to the potential that this one promised. Without the manipulative bulls--t and high-pressure tactics.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com