The Military Ruse
“You don’t know me, but I stumbled across your picture, and I couldn’t look away. You’re just stunning!”
Not many of us wouldn’t be intrigued if we saw this in our inbox on Instagram. It is the hook that many scammers use to catch the attention of women all around the world. Sometimes the writing is less articulate and full of grammar errors, but the message is the same: I don’t know you, but you’re beautiful!
The military ruse follows a very predictable pattern. They always message a potential victim through Instagram. They pour on the flattery like hot butter over popcorn. Sometimes they may send you poetry. They will call you “babe, sweetie, and love.” They are always in the US military. Almost always they are deployed overseas in Africa. Often they have a dead wife or they have been hurt by their previous girlfriend. They will often send you pictures of them in their uniform. However, an astute observer might notice that the name on their uniform doesn’t match what they say their name is, or they claim they’re in the navy but send you a picture of a man in an air force uniform. They may even send you a picture of their military ID, but if you look closely it is obvious it has been photo shopped. They will try to get you to chat with them on Google Hangouts, their preferred method of communication because they cannot be traced. Sometimes they will call you on the phone, but they will never video call you.
They will then begin to create intimacy with you as they confide that they can’t stop thinking about you. They will reveal that they have never met anyone like you before, and usually within just a few short days they will confess their undying love. Usually within 24 to 48 hours after that declaration of love, they will ask for money or gift cards. Sometimes they will slow down a bit if they sense their potential victim is getting wary, but almost always the “relationship” progresses very fast.
These scammers are individuals in third world countries who have used this ruse, and many others, to successfully take hundreds of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting, eager-for-love victims. They use every social media site including creating fake profiles to infiltrate dating apps. It is very important to keep your mind in full gear while you are looking for love. Each scammer has several ruses he/she uses, but the military ruse is quite popular on Instagram. So, if you see any of the telltale signs of the ruse, here is what you can do:
- Remember that Instagram is NOT a dating app. If someone approaches you on this app and tries to start a relationship with you out of thin air, be very wary.
- Do a reverse Google search on their pictures. Most scammers have stolen pictures off of Facebook or other sites. There’s a good chance you will find out who the image belongs to by doing a reverse image search.
- Ask the person to video call you or Face Time you. If they’re a scammer, they will give you an excuse as to why they can’t. With the military ruse, they will usually say it’s because they are deploying soon so they are too busy or they aren’t allowed to because they are on a secret mission.
- Remember, real love and emotion takes time to develop. If they are professing love after knowing very little about you, it’s not love—it’s a lure.
- Learn to be skeptical of everyone! When you are honestly searching for a relationship, it is hard to engage your brain once your heart gets put into gear. Scammers know this. They send you sweet messages. They flatter you. They know if they can get your heart involved, you will likely turn off your brain. That’s when they start asking for things. Don’t get tricked. At the first sign of trouble, block the person.
Some scammers are a little more sophisticated and they start with something that looks legitimate, but they all will ultimately follow the same pattern: get their victim onto Google Hangouts, profess love, and ask for money. Don’t fall prey to these schemes. They continue to use this ruse because it works! It’s time for the singles of the world to shut these pathetic scammers down.
When I first met John, I thought I had met my soul mate. He was handsome, intelligent, witty, and adventurous. The first few months of our relationship were bliss, but as time went on subtle changes began to take place within me. At first I didn’t notice them. My best friends did. When they would point something out, I would shrug it off. “All relationships have their ups and downs,” I would say. While that may be true, our bodies do send us physiological signals that something isn’t quite right. My body had been trying to tell me for months that I was not with the right guy, but I didn’t listen. John was not abusive. We had a good time together. Yet, the signals were clear. He was not the one.
What physiological signs does your body send you when you’re with the wrong person? There are several, and you should pay close attention when they start to pop up. Learn to trust your gut and it will never lead you astray.
- You lose your smile. My friends began to notice that when I talked about John, I smiled less often. They noticed how my lips would pull tight and my eyes would grow sad. They noticed this months before I began to realize that when I thought of John, my spontaneous smile that was omnipresent in the beginning was fading. If you find yourself smiling less, you are with the wrong person.
- Your self-esteem vanishes. If you start to notice your confidence wavering when it was previously thriving, this is a physiological sign that the person you are with is not helping feel loved and supported the way you should be. If you can’t feel comfortable in their presence when you’re at your worst, then they are not the right person for you. The right person will help your subconscious feel completely at ease, so you are free to be completely and unapologetically you.
- You are emotionally exhausted. While I was dating John, I was completely emotionally exhausted. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was spending a lot of emotional energy trying to be the perfect partner for John. I was trying to manage my moods and anxiety to avoid provoking negative reactions in him. While it is important to be aware of how you affect your SO in healthy relationships, if you find yourself micromanaging yourself in order to avoid conflict in you are in trouble. You are allowed to have emotions. You are allowed to express those emotions, and your partner should listen and be supportive. If they aren’t willing to be that shoulder to cry on, you are not with the right person.
- You are in denial. Do you spend a lot of time trying to convince yourself everything is fine in your relationship? I’ve got a little secret for you. FINE is the kiss of death. No one should settle for fine. While all relationships have their ups and downs, and there is definitely a happy medium to be found, if you are with the right person you do not have to convince yourself everything is fine. You will FEEL stable and confident and optimistic. You will FEEL a deeper connection and commitment. You will FEEL it. If you find that your inner dialogue dwells on the pros/cons of your relationship a lot, then your body is trying to tell you everything is not FINE.
- You neglect yourself. While you may want to spend every waking moment with your SO, you should never put yourself last. You should not feel guilty about needing me time, and your partner should not begrudge that time either. If you need a night out with your friends or a few hours to yourself, your SO shouldn’t demand that you check in frequently with them. If you do not have time or energy to meet your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs within your relationship, then you are with the wrong person.
All relationships take work. All relationships vacillate between times of pure bliss and rocky roads. The difference is that if you are with the right person, you will FEEL it in your bones. Your body will let you know that you can weather the storm because your SO is committed to you and your happiness, not just their own. With the right partner, every day is beautiful. The struggles become conquerable. The highs become even more brilliant. So, listen to your body—it will guide you to Mr. Right!
Recovering from a devastating break up is similar to a community recovering from a natural disaster. You do a lot of looking back and analyzing—trying to understand how you missed the signs and how you allowed yourself to be so unprepared for the imminent destruction that was headed your way. You are paralyzed with guilt for being so stupid and gullible. If only I had seen the red flags you yell at yourself! But upon further reflection, you are forced to acknowledge that you did see them. You saw ALL of them, but in the bliss and excitement, the lust and yearning for love your radar detector dims and you dismiss the signs. You are eager to forgive “little” mistakes because you want your partner to forgive you your foibles as well. However, over time the little mistakes begin to form a pattern of behavior and if you aren’t purposeful in how you approach a relationship, one of two things will happen: a catastrophic break up after you have lost your sense of self and any self-esteem you had OR you marry your partner and have a nightmare of a marriage that leads to a toxic divorce that leaves you breathless and quivering without a shred of dignity or self-respect.
Sounds fun, doesn’t it? So, how can you avoid this disaster? You have to be purposeful. You have to make a commitment to step out of the fantasy, momentarily, and record your thoughts and impressions and identify red flags while your relationship develops. Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but if you take some time to journal your relationship and track what is happening, you can see a pattern as it develops. Then you can use this information to create boundaries, make decisions, and end relationships if necessary.
The Gottman Institute recommends that you record each time your partner displays a red flag. You can draw them on a blank sheet of paper. Get out your red crayons and color in the boxes. Then, as you date, if your partner displays one of the red flags below, record the date and the details in one of the red flags on your sheet. Over time, you will be able to tell if there is a pattern or if they are just mistakes, which we all make. This is a powerful visual that can help you more clearly see what is happening in your relationship.
- Lack of communication skills.
- Irresponsible, immature, unpredictable behavior.
- Lack of trust.
- Your significant family and friends don’t like him/her.
- Controlling behaviors.
- You feel insecure in the relationship.
- They have a dark or secretive past.
- They have a history of not resolving past relationships.
- Abusive behavior of any kind.
- They push your physical boundaries.
- They tell you you’re perfect all of the time.
- The roll their eyes at you.
- They call all their exes crazy.
- They call you names during arguments.
- They have no work ethic.
- They are cruel or disrespectful to their parents.
- Their attitude or moods shift swiftly.
- They guilt trip you for everything.
- They make you feel stupid.
- The relationships is built on the need to feel needed.
Obviously, some of these are more severe than others, but they are ALL red flags. They ALL lead to toxic relationships. If you have a hard time being objective while you are being swept off your feet in the beginning of a relationship, consider using this visual activity to help you track your partner’s red flags. Use the information from the visual and trust your gut! Once you are sure there is a pattern, end the relationship immediately. April Mae Monterrosa said, “The red flags are usually there, you just have to keep your eyes open wider than your heart.” This strategy is one way to help you do that. Set yourself up for success in love and you will find it!
Sarah was a beautiful, vivacious 25-year-old attorney. She had just landed her dream job at a competitive firm in New York. Her family and friends were wildly excited for her. Finally, it seemed that Sarah was reaping the rewards of all of her hard work. Law school had been tremendously hard, and Sarah had struggled getting through it while juggling several dysfunctional relationships with men. Finally, it seemed she could leave the struggle behind.
Although starting this new job meant flying across the country and leaving behind her support system, Sarah didn’t mind. She knew the long hours she would have to put in at the firm meant she would have little time for a social life any way. She said a tearful goodbye to her family and friends, boarded the plane with an optimistic smile, and flew towards her dreams.
Sarah really thrived in New York. McFarland & Sons was a multi-billion dollar law practice that rarely hired anyone straight out of law school. She always arrived an hour before the other attorneys, and she stayed long past the time they all left. She often took work home with her too. To say that she loved her job would be an understatement.
One day, a handsome delivery boy brought in a delivery for Sarah. Her friends back home had sent her flowers. How thoughtful she thought. I wonder if they picked out the hot delivery boy too. She giggled at her own joke. “Are you Sarah Jenkins?” he asked in a deep, baritone voice that sounded like it belonged on Broadway instead of coming out of the mouth of a delivery boy. “Yes, I’m Sarah,” she stammered. “Here’s a delivery for you,” he smiled. “Please sign here.”
Sarah was caught off guard by his handsome face and melodic voice that when she grabbed for the pen she fumbled it, and it flipped out of her hand and hit him in the nose. “Oh no!” Sarah cried out. “I’m so sorry. I’m not usually that clumsy,” she apologized. There was a streak of blue pen on his nose. Sarah was unsure if she should try to wipe it away or if that was too weird. After a long awkward moment, he bent down to pick up the pen and handed it back to Sarah.
“No worries, Sarah. Please sign here, and then I’ll be out of your hair.” Sarah carefully reached for the pen this time, signed her name, and then grabbed the box. “Thank you um …” she paused waiting for him to fill in the answer. “Jeff, my name’s Jeff,” he replied. “Thanks Jeff. I’m sorry. I got pen on your nose. You’ll probably want to wipe that off before you do any more deliveries.” Jeff reached up and rubbed his nose. “Oh boy! I guess I will go take care of that. Thanks for the heads-up. Have a great day, Sarah.” He winked at her and then walked out the door. Sarah couldn’t help but watch him walk away until he was completely out of sight. She noticed butterflies thrashing around inside her stomach. Oh no! This was not happening. She was not going to get involved with any men. She was much too busy, and she was always unlucky in love.
However, life had a different plan for Sarah. The following morning Jeff went back to McFarland & Sons and asked Sarah if she would like to go to dinner. Sarah was hesitant. She had a bad track record with men. Her past relationships had always started off well, but then the Prince Charmings morphed into beasts after a few months’ time.
But, Jeff was so charming and handsome that Sarah could not refuse. During the first few months of their relationship, Jeff was warm, thoughtful, and exciting. She learned that Jeff was an aspiring singer and actor. He was in New York chasing his dream to become a singer and actor. He was working odd jobs to pay the bills, but most of the time he had to crash at his friend’s apartments because he did not make enough to pay his rent. Jeff told Sarah about how hard it was to catch a break in acting and how expensive it was. Sarah enjoyed being with Jeff. She was flattered that someone like him would even be interested in her. She was sympathetic with his struggles, so she paid for all their dates. She knew Jeff felt bad that he could not pay right now, but that would change once he got his first big break. Besides, she had a great job, and she was happy to help.
After a few months, Sarah began to become obsessed with Jeff. She was determined to help him be successful. When she was not at work, she would spend time researching agents for Jeff to interview or looking for auditions for him. She knew Jeff could not afford an agent, so she offered to pay for one. Jeff was grateful, of course, and then he said that if he had an agent he would also need acting lessons, singing, lessons, and a photography shoot. All of these were costly, but Sarah happily gave the money to Jeff. She was invested in him and his future.
As the months passed, Jeff’s behavior began to change. He became moody and entitled. He demanded that Sarah let him move in with her so that he could have a stable roof over his head. He blamed his failing his recent auditions on not having a stable place to live. When she told him she wasn’t sure about living together, he became enraged. He yelled and cursed at her. For the first time, Sarah was frightened of Jeff. She asked him to leave. He kicked the door on the way out and left a hole in it.
The following day Jeff apologized and blamed his poor behavior on his dysfunctional childhood. He spent the next few hours confessing to Sarah that his mother had abused him as a child and that is why he had yelled at her the previous night. Sarah was really touched by this confession. She felt honored that Jeff trusted her enough to confide in her. She vowed to help him heal his emotional wounds and become a successful adult.
But, as the days went by, Jeff’s behavior became more chaotic. The smallest thing would set him off. He would yell and kick the wall. Often he would call Sarah demeaning names. And sometimes he would disappear for days at a time with no explanation. When he returned, Sarah noticed he had lipstick on his collar but never dared ask him about where it came from. Ironically, as the relationship deteriorated and Sarah’s heart felt the mounting pain from Jeff’s actions, the more she felt committed to “saving” him. She knew if she could only love him enough then he would change.
One night after a particularly bad screaming match with Jeff, Sarah locked herself in her room. She called her best friend, Julie, and confided in her about her new relationship. As carefully and lovingly as Julie could, she said, “Sarah, I hate to tell you this, but your old pattern is back. Jeff sounds just like Tim and Steve. Sure, the details are different, but the pattern is the same. You’re trying to rescue another lost puppy and now it’s gone rabid and it’s attacking you.” Sarah sobbed. “Why does this keep happening? You would think I could spot a loser a mile away! I’m a lost cause.”
Are you like Sarah? Do you have a pattern of forming relationships with men where you sacrifice your own needs for safety, love, and comfort for someone else? How would you answer the following questions?
- Are most of your conversations with friends (or family) about him, his problems, his thoughts, and his feelings?
- Do you excuse his moodiness, bad temper, indifference, put-downs as problems because he had a bad childhood, a stressful job, a tough life?
- Do you read self-help books and underline things you think will help him?
- Do you dislike many of his basic characteristics, values, behaviors but put up with them because you think you can change him?
- Does your relationship with him jeopardize your emotional well-being or physical safety?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may be a woman who loves too much. In our culture, women have been conditioned through music that love should be painful. Rarely do love songs become number one hits if they talk about two people who have a mature, balanced, respectful relationship. Songs only become a hit if someone is willing to die for love, sacrifice everything for love, bleed for love, or cut out their heart for love. It is no wonder that around 30% of all women find themselves in relationships that are extremely dysfunctional and that this pattern repeats itself until one of three things happen: (1) she gives up on relationships, (2) love does kill her, or (3) she identifies the pattern and gets help.
Women who love too much have several common characteristics. Do any of these describe you?
- They come from dysfunctional homes where their emotional needs were not met.
- They try to fill their emotional needs vicariously by becoming a caregiver to men who appear needy.
- They are terrified of abandonment.
- They will do anything to save a relationship.
- They will sacrifice anything to help the man they’re with.
- They’re accustomed to a lack of love in a relationship, and so they’re willing to wait, hope, and try harder to please their man.
- They’re willing to take far more than 50% of the responsibility, guilt, and blame in a relationship.
- They have critically low levels of self-esteem.
- They have a desperate need to control their man because they had little security in childhood.
- They are more in touch with the dream of their relationship than with the reality of it.
- They are addicted to men and emotional pain.
- They may be predisposed to chemical/food addictions.
- They have a tendency towards depression.
- They use sex as a tool to manipulate their man.
- They are not attracted to men who are kind, stable, reliable, or who are interested in them. They find them boring.
So, what do you do if you see yourself in any of these descriptions?
First, do not despair. There is something you can do. Make your recovery a priority. You cannot break this pattern on your own. Find a therapist who can help you work through the issues that are keeping you locked in this pattern. Most of the research I’ve read strongly suggests that women see women therapists. If possible, find a female therapist near you and tell her you think you are a woman who loves too much. Second, find a support group. Your therapist can recommend one for you. Third, develop your spiritual side. Set aside some time daily to get in touch with your higher power. Invite him or her into your life. Ask for help and guidance as you tackle this problem. Meditate. Fourth, stop managing and controlling others. This will be a hard one. This has become a skill you have used to “love” others, but it is self-serving. You need to find more genuine ways to connect with people. Fifth, make a commitment to cultivate what needs to be developed in you. Make a list of talents, skills, or abilities that you would like to work on. Set short-term and long-term goals to help you develop yourself in these areas. These will help you fill the void that you have been trying to fill by your dysfunctional relationships with men. Instead of “mothering” needy men, spend time mothering yourself.
Loving too much is just like any other addiction–it is a dysfunctional coping strategy that must be treated with a professional’s help. The good news is women who have loved too much can have healthy, successful relationships in their future! So, take advantage of the help that is available for you and set yourself up for success when you are on datingsafe.com. Love does not have to hurt. In fact, it shouldn’t. Period.
Information for this article was adapted from Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood. I also recommend the book Healing Your Emotional Self by Beverly Engel
Meet Our Founder Tracy
My Story… 2011, Tragedy strikes! Suddenly widowed with four small children. A stay at home mom with no clue about how to live life as a widow. Manual not included. A rusty resume. Then, a journey to the afterlife changed everything. The power of forgiveness and letting go. Learning to keep my sanity intact by remembering to laugh when life literally falls apart. Discovering my divine purpose. Helping others find love. How my own online dating flops, failures and mishaps led me to start Dating Safe. Leading the industry in secure online dating. Finding hope, faith, and optimism against all odds. Ultimately, learning how to tackle life events with humor, sorrow and most of all honesty.
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While online dating continues to grow, people fall victim to dating fraud and romance scams which cost time, money, and emotional distress. Daters are required to trust that the people they meet online are who they claim to be. Yet fake profiles and bots on dating sites are not uncommon, and it’s too easy to be tricked or scammed by somebody using a false identity or hiding behind a fake profile. So, to solve that problem every member at Dating Safe is verified by government ID. We’re raising the bar by raising the barrier to entry. Thank you for joining us!