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Relationships & Self-Love

Red Flag Signs of Emotional Abuse & Manipulation on Netflix’s THE TINDER SWINDLER 

Photo by Jackson Simmer on Unsplash.

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The first time I watched Netflix’s THE TINDER SWINDLER, I could very easily spot the seemingly obvious steps this guy took to abuse his victims. How? Well, I am someone who has experienced these telltale signs and patterns of behavior first-hand in various emotionally, mentally, verbally, and physically abusive, toxic, and karmic relationships. 

Given my stellar background and by now near-expert experience in brutal gullibility, suggestive susceptibility, and unconditional love for my authoritative abusers, I can pretty much tell you the exact steps an emotionally abusive manipulator nearly always takes. The circumstances of these steps can vary, of course, depending on whether the abuser is also a narcissist or psychopath or whatever, but if you take a step back and look at things from a higher perspective, you will see the same pattern begin to form: 

Love-Bombing

Devaluing & Discarding

followed by Hoovering,

and

Lather, Rinse, and Repeat.

If someone had told me what to really watch out for growing up, I may have avoided a lot of pain and trauma. So now I am using these demonstrative and in this case true stories to show you what to look for in your own interactions so you know when it’s time to get the hell outta there

Before we get into the steps, please remember: we cannot judge the victims of this abuse because we are not in their shoes. It’s so easy to say, “oh I’d never let that happen,” or “that could never happen to me,” but the truth is you never know. I thought the same thing until I grew up and realized how much abuse I was accepting in my own life, and I think we’re seeing more and more these days that abuse can happen to anyone. With that in mind, here are the steps you’ll likely see an emotionally abusive manipulator apply to their victims: 

STEP 1 – LURE THEM IN WITH FANTASY

This is the hook. This is where they getcha. This is where every idea you’ve ever absorbed is used against you, with or usually without you knowing it. 

This is pretty easy to do because most of us have been programmed with fantasy our entire lives, starting at a very young age, with most of this fairy-tale programming happening between the ages of 1 and 7, which, coincidentally, is also when our subconscious minds develop the main programming we go on to use for the rest of our lives. Hu-fucking-zzah! 

These gals not only fell for this guy and his fantasy world hook, line, and sinker, but they believed in a future so bright and so full of possibilities that they had no choice but to be convinced they’d found their own prince Charming and were on the storybook road to happily ever after. 

Note: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

STEP 2 – CREATE A SENSE OF URGENCY

If it’s going to happen, it has to happen now. This is where they use time against you. 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

This won’t necessarily feel like a bad thing, though your intuition may hit you with a sharp warning pang just in case you’d like to avoid the impending harsh lesson. Of course, the abuser will do everything in their power to make sure you don’t. 

In addition to applying a sense of urgency to get you to act fast and make quick decisions, an abuser will inevitably progress and move things along rapidly. So a coffee date would turn into dinner would turn into hopping a private jet all faster than you can say ‘human trafficking’ after three glasses of champagne. 

This is right about the time your well-grounded friends will be firing off warnings at you. Your second alarm from the universe that can still, more often than not, go ignored. 

Which, Speedy McCreedy, brings us to… 

STEP 3 – GET PERSONAL, VERY QUICKLY

By getting personal with you right away, the abuser not only creates a false sense of familiarity which you equate to safety, but also picks up and stores important details to be used against you at a later time. 

The bulk of this misdirection research phase tends to happen during the honeymoon period, which can last anywhere from a day to a month, and of course returns in waves if the relationship progresses from there. But as long as an abuser is in your life, rest assured they are keeping every personal thing you say filed away for a rainy, let’s-ruin-your day. 

In the meantime, they’ll also use your personality and preferences as evidence to point out how you are the missing piece for them. They’ll then use their personal details, real or made up, to bring you in closer and make you feel special by association and by their choosing of you. 

Note that a lot of abusers, manipulators, and cons only keep family or children around to use as props in your bait. Bonus points if they can simultaneously impress you and get you to feel sorry for them. 

And therein lies the rub.

STEP 4 – GROOM WITH BOUNDARY CROSSING AND CONCESSION PRESSURE

It starts so subtly; just a little thing you wouldn’t normally do, or doesn’t really make sense, say, based on the facts of yesterday. But you’re a nice person and suddenly you care for this new person so it seems to make sense to do this small thing. It could be anything from giving them a ride, to them whisking you off on a private jet for a last-minute getaway. 

At this stage it’s very important to pay attention because it’s like when the hired magician comes over to dazzle you at the dinner table. You want to be fooled by the illusion, and in this way the con or abuser uses your willingness-to-play against you. 

This is how they get you to go along with the scary big things like taking on hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt for a man you just met. Each small concession you barely notice or explain away grooms you for more and more boundary crossing. And the more drama you put up with along the way, the more false, yet very real, danger you allow into your life because of their so-called “love” and this “intense connection.” 

Once they have you right where they want you, it’s time for…

STEP 5 – DISTRACT WITH PASSION AND PHYSICAL INTIMACY

(Which could be a part of step 4 if they coerce or force you into sexual acts, or even intense oversharing if the relationship remains a “friendship.”)

Just in case you’re about to wise up to their games, though still likely considering you too stupid to notice, they’ll distract you with passion and the excitement of physical intimacy ASAP. This is where they pull you in, dip you, and kiss you on the dance floor. This is where an intense night of oversharing (and in their case, lying) leads to an innocent game of just-the-tip turning into all-out sex. You simply can’t help yourselves, and are only giving in to your soul urges and baser instincts, while they get you chemically addicted to their presence in your life. Yikes. 🤮

Passion at this stage is not only kissing and sex and grand gestures and declarations of love, but also the scary aspects an abuser will inevitably bring in to coerce compliance. So if they threaten to hurt themselves because they love you too much, or if an outside force comes in to seemingly threaten them and they want to make it your problem now, too, advise them to get professional help and you get the hell out of there. 

Photo by We-Vibe Toys on Unsplash

Sigh

STEP 6 – GIVE ‘EM THE OTHER D’S: (AS IN) DISAPPOINT, DISMISS, DEVALUE, AND DISCARD 

No rejection left behind, this is where they get you truly addicted to their attention. 

The push and pull of luring you in with passion and declarations of love and the promise of a tomorrow that will never come, followed by a sudden drop in that attention, and thus dopamine supply, puts you in a state of withdrawal that can only be satisfied when the abuser returns. 

By messing with a whole slew of your brain chemicals and neural processes, (I’m not a scientist, you can go look up the very real details here) the abuser renders you emotionally unstable and literally fucks with your ability to make rational decisions. 

Note: This Should be a f*cking CRIME. 

The aim here is to disappoint you, dismiss you, reject, or even frighten you, to ignite your craving for them so you are ready to act at any cost when they come back.

STEP 7 – (GET OUT THE VACUUM ‘CAUSE IT’S) HOOVERTIME

This is where, after they’ve disappointed you, or discarded you, or ghosted you, or rejected you, or momentarily terrified you, they come back at you with excessive attention and love-bombing. Flatter, flatter, flatter to pick up and continue the fantasy, or at least, the sick twisted illusion of one. 

This is really when the love-bombing starts beyond the initial hook phase because the fantasy, and really your imagination, did most of the work in the beginning, but now they have to convince you that fantasy still exists despite their previous behavior.

Be on the lookout for fake apologies accompanied by bouquets of flowers, or in this guy’s case, visits to Oslo. After weeks of ignored texts, be prepared for your phone to be bombarded with dings. At this point, the abuser will do anything to get back into your good graces, and, thanks to the magic of addiction chemistry, you’ll be all too willing to let them in. 

STEP 8 – WHIPLASH

This is what you get from the repetitive discard-hoover phase. Inhale, exhale. They love you, they love you not. Your head will be whipping back and forth faster than the spectator crowd at a tennis match, and all that exercise will render you far too exhausted to notice the real damage being done to your psyche, not to mention physical body and in these cases, bank accounts. 

Photo by Drew Brown on Unsplash

They’ll say they can’t come to see you and then show up anyway and ask you to go steady. They’ll say everything is great and then suddenly there’s a security threat and you have to put your insta on private. Whatever the case may be, things will get weirder and weirder, but all along peppered in will be these gorgeously hopeful instances of love and manipulation.

The push and the pull. The coming and going. The amplified sense of urgency followed suddenly by radio silence. Everything will have you looking this way and that and all without a moment to stop and think and digest not only what is going on butt whether you should be going along with it. 

And that, my friends, is how we: 

BOIL THE FROG 🐸 

Once they’ve adequately boiled the frog, an abuser can repeat the hoover-discard process over and over and over again. Leading us to— 

STEP 9 – LATHER, RINSE, REPEAT 

As the demands and discards get bigger and bigger and bigger, you may feel like you are tumbling out of control while trapped in a hamster wheel or horrifying hall of mirrors. 

This is how you go from normal human being to severely traumatized with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt human being. (Which I really think there should be a forgiveness system in place for this sort of debt abuse because abusers basically use war tactics to manipulate you into giving them your credit and money, and like, you just have to deal with that painful lesson without the useless diploma to match the cost? Great.)

Public Service Announcement: Never take a loan out to bring cash to your new rich boyfriend. 

I repeat: 

Never, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, give a self-proclaimed rich person your money. 

So remember these tips:

TIP 1 – IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS

If you’re getting hit with a fantasy, be on the lookout. I’m not saying you can’t find a guy with a yacht who wants to spend all his money on you, and if so, more power to you. But odds are, especially if they are rushing you into this fantasy, the bubble is going to burst and you won’t like the pop. The longer you stay in there, the worse it’s going to get, so leave at the first inkling of doubt. 

And if you do meet a rich man, then he likely knows value, and you can show him your value by making him wait and prove himself worthy of you. 

Which brings me t something my dead dad always used to say (though I believe he got it from Poe): Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see. A little pessimistic, yes, but I say good when applied to the dating-app world. 

Use common sense over programmed false-hope. 

TIP 2 – IF THEY RUSH YOU, IT’S NOT FOR YOU

What’s meant for you will not pass you by and the love of your life will exhibit patience. No good decision has ever been made under duress and you, my dear reader, are not going to ever know what you truly want while being pressured by an outside influence with insistent urgency.

If someone can’t wait for you, it’s time to get the hell outta there and find yourself someone who can. 

Photo by JL Merilles on Unsplash

TIP 3 – JUST SAY NO TO OVERSHARING

If they (or you) are oversharing right away, very quickly, and claiming you are everything they’ve been looking for, the missing piece to their puzzle, just say no, no, no, no, no

Do not mistake compatible wounds for compatible souls and please do not enter a romantic relationship because you think you’re being called to save that person. It is not your job to save anyone, and certainly not when done at a detriment to your own wellbeing. 

Go at your own pace and do not reveal your secrets until you know it’s with someone you can trust. 

TIP 4 – GET AWAY FROM BOUNDARY BENDERS AND RULE BREAKERS

The moment someone you don’t know, or someone you do know, attempts to get you to break a boundary or bend an uncomfortable rule, run

It’s easy to think we must make concessions to be worthy of love, and yes, love is, at times, about compromise, but self-betrayal is not the path to true love. Stand firm in your self-love and listen to your body and any external red flags when something comes up that pressures you to abandon your values for the benefit of someone else. You are in control of your life here and you are not under any obligation to be or do anything for any other person in this world. 

And remember, if something feels off, it is off. If someone makes you feel uneasy, it’s for a f*cking reason. No need to sit around and figure out the why, just get out of there.  

TIP 5 – COERCION IS A FORM OF ABUSE

If they sweep you off your feet, rush you into getting physical, or push you to define the relationship status – it’s not real, it is at best a hookup and at worst manipulative abuse. 

This sort of flash-in-the-pan passion screams karmic relationship and only leads to pain and heartbreak somewhere down the line. I know its hurts to walk away from these situations sometimes, but better to suffer the sting now rather than risk death by a thousand paper cuts later.

TIP 6 – LEAVE AT THE FIRST SIGN OF DISRESPECT  

The second you feel rug-swept-from-under-you disappointed or discarded, please proceed to the nearest exit. 

If they wine and dine and attention you six nights in a row, and on the seventh night say no no, No more, I don’t like you, I can’t do this, you gotta go, or flat out ignore you. Take the cue and G-O. 

Don’t ask for an explanation, ’cause they’ll say whatever they need to make you stay, while still making it seem like they are rejecting you. This confusion will have you stuck like glue in indecision, allowing them to elicit control of your emotions and behavior. 

Does that sound like fairytale love to you? 

TIP 7 – RESIST THE HOOVER

If they come back after already showing you their true colors through disappointment, or abuse, or impatience, or control, the best thing you can do is block, block, block them. Don’t even listen to whatever sweet-nothings they whisper into your inbox. Don’t let the slime slide into your DMs. This is the equivalent of a cigarette calling you up for a quick puff two weeks after you quit smoking. Sure, it sounds tempting and might feel good, temporarily, but it’s not aligned with your goals and will only serve to further derail your efforts. Stay healthy and stay away. 

And if you do take the hoover bait and get sucked up the vacuum, it’s okay, the cards are stacked against you that way. But please do your best to… 

TIP 8 – RECOGNIZE WHEN A REPEATED PATTERN OF BEHAVIOR IS GIVING YOU WHIPLASH

This yo-yo effect is all part of being a victim of emotional abuse and manipulation, so when it happens again, when another small boundary is crossed, when another promise is broken, when they show up differently than they’d previously been, again and again, find the strength to say no and get away.

The best way to do this? Educate yourself.

TIP 9 – IF YOU FIND YOURSELF GOOGLING SOMEONE’S BEHAVIOR TOWARD YOU, THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

People in healthy relationships don’t go searching for answers as to why their friends or loved ones are treating them so confusingly or downright sh*ttily. If you at any point feel the need to figure out why someone is being a jerk, or why you suddenly feel like a shell of your former, happier, self, just get up and get the hell outta there

If you have to play along until you can get away safely, do what you gotta do, but please get up and go and block all avenues of communication and do whatever you need to do to stay safe. Don’t beat yourself up for how long it took you to realize what was going on, don’t rationalize staying because of all the time and energy and sometimes money you’ve invested in the relationship, don’t hesitate at your first-noticed sign of trouble. Just get outta there

So there you have it. My opinionated digestion of the red flag signs of emotional abuse and manipulation as depicted on Netflix’s THE TINDER SWINDLER, plus a few tips to avoid this sort of situation in your own life. I hope you found this rant informative and entertaining and please go watch the film to learn from the experiences these brave women share.

Remember, if something feels off, it’s off, and you don’t have to compromise yourself or your values for anybody. We all deserve to live happy, healthy, safe, loving lives, and anything less than that should be shown the door.

Happy loving,

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