I Dated a Guy Like the Tinder Swindler. Here’s What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
While watching the Netflix documentary “The Tinder Swindler”, something about Simon Leviev bothered me deeply. I asked myself why, and realized it was because I dated someone like him for two full years
He somehow had a knack for making me spend money I would’ve never spent. One time, we were traveling aboard, and he claimed his credit card didn’t work for some odd reason.
“Can you please get gas, this time?”
He later took me gift shopping and pressured me into buying really expensive gifts for family and friends while making sure his friends heard the exact price. Looking back, his motives were far more sinister — he was making sure everyone knew he only associated with people who had money to spend.
At the time I was still in business school, so I didn’t exactly have money to spare. He would take me along to his “business meetings”, and tell me that it would make me look good if I paid for the lunch we were having with some perspective business partners.
I never really understood what kind of business they were talking about, and when I asked, he always gave me vague answers. In the end, I always paid because he did spend a lot of money on me, and I do believe in equality in relationships.
He bought me expensive gifts and say he’d just closed a “business deal.” But he always expected gifts of the same caliber — he expected lavish presents in return. He got me a diamond bracelet for our one-year anniversary. For his birthday, I got us a four in a private plane over Key West.
We took pictures and shared them with his entire network. He made it seem, to them, as if it was just another day for him — it was all just a part of his routine.
The whole thing was a facade.
If only I had known whenever we were out, and he did pay, he wasn’t spending his own money.
My Swindler Relationship
My story isn’t as extreme as the Tinder Swindler. I didn’t go into debt (thank goodness), and the financial impact of the relationship on my life was nowhere near as detrimental. But I was deceived. I was cheated in multiple ways.
He once picked me up in a Porsche 911 — that I knew he didn’t own. It was then that it dawned on me, that he might’ve been sleeping with a wealthy girl we both knew to secure the car and money for the fancy dinners he took me to.
You might wonder why I kept rolling with it.
One person told me I should feel honored he was using other people to provide me with the lifestyle he wanted his “official” girlfriend to have.
Problem is, I never asked for it.
“Why didn’t you just leave?” you may be wondering.
The answer is, no matter how hard I searched, no matter how many questions I asked, I always failed to collect enough evidence of what he was doing. I started believing it was all in my head.
There were many similarities between my ex and Simon: living a grandiose lifestyle, borrowing luxury cars, always finding a seat in someone’s private jet, daily dining at fancy restaurants, and wearing every possible tacky designer item they could get their hands on.
They both were constantly trying to make deals, maximizing their wins at the expense of others — cars, phones, or anything they can get their hands on. They both came from middle-class families and claimed to be the sons of wealthy businessmen.
Most importantly, both of them share anti-social traits and don’t care about the consequences of their actions on other people’s lives.
But there were also some differences.
My ex was still close to his friends and family and wanted to portray himself as a traditional family man. When I was stressed out from working and studying full time, he would take care of me, bring me food, prepare a hot bath, and braid my thick, long hair while kissing my neck.
He had his sweet moments.
He taught me the power of meditation and deep breathing to calm myself during panic attacks. He would help me organize my schedule for the small teaching business I ran in college and managed my social life, which I was too exhausted to do on my own.
I eventually began to suspect he was cheating on me.
Once when he thought I wasn’t paying attention, I saw him interact with some girls a little too flirtatiously for it to just be friendly.
Another time I found a pair of earrings in his bed and asked him whose they were. He said that he let a friend use the apartment to meet up with a date, so they must have been hers. I promptly called his friend to question him, and he confirmed the story.
Right before our second anniversary, a mutual friend told me that he was cheating on me, so I interrogated all of our acquaintances to gather more evidence. One of his best friends answered that he didn’t know, but if I thought he was, then I should follow my instinct (note: he totally knew, and I sensed it).
Eventually, I asked him the question, a question I already knew the answer to.
“Have you been cheating on me?”
Just like Simon, he denied everything with an accusatory tone. He was vehement. He looked me dead straight in the eyes and swore over his life that there was no other woman than me, that he loved me, that he was being completely open and honest, and had nothing to hide.
I was shocked that someone could act so convincingly while blatantly lying. I had no idea people would fake emotions so well in real-life settings.
You’d be amazed at how well some people can keep denying reality over and over again, no matter how many chances you give them to come clean.
I couldn’t believe someone who appeared so nice turned out to be such an absolute turd.
Then, as fate would have it, he died in a motorcycle accident two weeks after this exchange.
I never go closure. But I was liberated.
Some Important Lessons
Lesson 1: liars are everywhere. After spending so much time with a compulsive liar, I learned how to spot them everywhere. The world never looked the same again.
Liars and bullshitters recognize each other easily. There’s no honor among thieves, but there is camaraderie.
They try to confuse you by keeping everything vague. They exaggerate demonstrations of affection.
Now I have the luxury of spotting their red flags.
Lesson 2: There’s a fine line between being a capable entrepreneur and a complete fraud. It’s sometimes hard to figure out which category they belong to until they succeed or fail.
These people help you dream big and set ambitious goals.
Great entrepreneurs are able to set a vision and make people believe in it until it comes true. Elon Musk set the vision of conquering Mars, and because of his past achievements, most people believe him. If anyone else but Elon would set this vision, the public would think the goal is unrealistic.
But some people proclaim a vision that they don’t have the means to accomplish. Some succeed against all odds, most don’t. The most egregious example of the latter is Elizabeth Holmes with Theranos. Another great example is Billy McFarland with the Fyre Festival, another Netflix documentary similar to the Tinder Swindler.
Billy sold his vision and was very convincing, so investors followed him.
They lost everything.
Instances like these happen on smaller scales. Past successes can’t always be used as predictors of future success.
Lesson 3: Having honest people in your life is invaluable — appreciate them, and never let them go. There’s a subset of liars who lie about how they feel, rather than just about facts.
The experience of swimming in a world of lies is confusing. It makes you question everything, and you lose touch with social norms.
When you find someone who owns their actions and is completely honest, treasure them, and keep them in your life forever.
They will serve as a healthy standard you can use for the future.
Some advice for people who end up in these relationships
I’m not encouraging anyone to date these people, but life is meant to be lived, and we can’t control who we are attracted to. In fact, people who score high on anti-social traits generally score quite high on attractiveness due to their defining confidence and charm.
If you do find yourself in my situation, here is some advice that will help you navigate it as best you can.
- These people can teach you to dream big without asking for permission. If you are in for a rollercoaster, go ahead and date them.
- Carefully observe everything they say and who they interact with. You will slowly understand their strategy and develop an intuition for their next move. Understanding how these people think is priceless and will help you later on in life, as you will inevitably encounter more of their kind.
- Account for every dollar you spend while in their company and compare it to your normal spending. Is it significantly more?
- Don’t confront them directly about anything they do. They will never tell you the truth, and you’ll only antagonize them.
- Behave naively. Never let them think that you understand what they are up to, or they might perceive you as a threat.
- The most important lesson of all: your intuition will tell you when to get out. Your gut feeling will tell you to run. When that time comes, listen to it.